Newcastle premiership hero Timana Tahu has questioned the club’s pursuit of Matt Lodge, saying a weak backline is to blame – not the forward pack – for the Knights’ poor NRL form.
The 2001 grand final tryscorer told AAP adding another prop to an already hard-working forward pack will not save their season because there is no strike in the backline.
The Knights have already landed half Jake Clifford from North Queensland with immediate effect, while Lodge is thought to be close to a release from Brisbane.
“He’s an awesome prop. But we have enough props. The forward pack is not the problem … the backline is weak,” Tahu told AAP.
“If you look at today’s backs, they’re all strike weapons.
“The transition now for wingers is a massive job to get play ones and twos.
“I don’t think there’s strike weapons out wide in the back five, they rely on Kalyn Ponga.
“That’s what needs to get fixed up.
“We need size, we need strike weapons.”
The hulking forward pack of Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Tyson Frizell and David Klemmer have been solid this season while the Knights have struggled with just four wins from 11 games.
The problem has been exacerbated by a long-term injury to halfback Mitchell Pearce, while Ponga has played just five games and has again been ruled out of Sunday’s clash with Manly.
It puts the heat squarely on the inexperienced back five of Tex Hoy, Starford To’a, Enari Tuala, Bradman Best and Brayden Musgrove who have played 106 NRL games between them.
Tahu himself was a strike outside back for the Knights across 126 NRL games from the early 2000s through to his retirement in 2014.
He was two weeks shy of his 21st birthday when he won the 2001 premiership with the Knights, which is still the last title for the club.
It now also marks the longest current grand final drought in the NRL.
“If you look at teams in the past that were successful, there were strike weapons like Matt Gidley, Adam MacDougall, Robbie O’Davis, Darren Albert, Andrew Johns,” he said.
“In the middle they can only do so much and I see the Saifiti twins, I see Klemmer and Frizell, they’re playing their hearts out.”
Meanwhile, coach Adam O’Brien defended the criticism the club has copped from fans for the pursuit of controversial forward Lodge.
“The one thing I would say, this game and this country is a forgiving country,” he said.
“Anytime someone owns a mistake, especially as a young man and then you take steps to better yourself, I don’t know what more he would do.
“Since he was approved to play he’s certainly changed a whole lot over those years.”
In 2015 Lodge was arrested and charged with assault while in New York.