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Johns diagnoses what must change at Newcastle for Knights to take next step


Newcastle great Matty Johns believes his former club has to change the way they attack with the football in order to improve in 2021.

Having crashed out in the first week of finals for the second consecutive year with a 28-20 loss to Parramatta on Sunday, Johns says they should be “disappointed” with how their season finished.

He believes the side’s defence under Adam O’Brien is strong, but it’s going forward where they need to innovate.

“When you look at the Knights making the finals, you can say, ‘Oh, it’s a pass mark’,” Johns said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.

“But, the Knights need to look at how they play in attack in particular.

“As far as the football they produced and their attack, they’d be disappointed in their season.”

With perhaps the most exciting player in the league at their disposal in Kalyn Ponga, Johns says the side needs to figure out more plays for him to best use his strengths with the ball.

“They have to get more out of Kalyn Ponga, that’s an obvious one, but it’s taken a long time for them to use him properly,” Johns added.

“I spoke about this last week, but they just use him on sweeping block plays all the time where he’s gift is getting the ball square, where he can use his footwork and pass short or pass long.

“He’s probably one of the most dangerous players in the competition when he gets the ball as the first or second receiver.

“The Knights have to loosen their structure, play less block based football.”

While veteran halfback Mitchell Pearce has come under fire for a lacklustre performance in Sunday’s elimination final, Johns believes he simply has to stay at the club due to there being no better replacements on the market.

“As far as Pearce is concerned, there’s just not enough out and out halfbacks in our game,” Johns explained.

“They can’t allow Mitchell Pearce to leave, there’s been all sorts of talk that he will go here or there.

“But the bottom line is, he’s under contract at the Newcastle Knights, and they’ve got to keep him.”

Pearce is currently tied to the club until 2022, but Canterbury, Canberra, the Wests Tigers and Spanish club Catalans Dragons have been linked to the number seven.

Listen to the full chat here.

Newcastle Knights

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