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Knights desperate to end dark old NRL days

Newcastle's last remaining players from the dark days are desperate to turn their focus from Nathan Brown to ending one of the longest finals droughts in the NRL.

Saturday's clash with the Wests Tigers is arguably the Knights' biggest in five years, with the loser set to be ruled out of finals contention.

The Knights haven't played finals football since 2013, with only the Tigers seven-year absence a longer running one in the NRL.

No current Knights players have played finals football at the club, with all having since debuted or arrived since the rebuild began.

Of their squad, only Danny Levi, Sione Mata'utia and Lachlan Fitzgibbon featured in all three of their wooden spoons in 2015-17, before Brown turned the roster around.

"It's pretty much do or die for us," Levi said.

"There are only three of us still left from the real dark days and we haven't got to taste finals footy.

"We've said it a couple of times to each other, we're the last ones left. How we've survived those times.

"The club saw something in us to keep us around. We just want to reward them by getting them back to where we belong and finals footy."

Brown has this week stressed it is not his departure they should be worried about, and instead their football.

He coached St George Illawarra to the finals in 2007 after being told he would be unwanted the next year, and St Helens to a Super League title in 2014 after announcing he would depart.

He expects players to be driven by their own motivation and not him, noting that coaches are merely "transit" in clubs these days.

And while Sydney Roosters assistant Adam O'Brien on Friday firmed to take charge next year, Brown stressed his players could only worry about 2019.

"The competition is 25 rounds to play in September," he said.

"And if we're being honest it's been a pretty ordinary 20 years since Andrew Johns retired. It's been a pretty lonely time for Knights fans in September."

Newcastle will debut teenage prodigy Bradman Best on the wing on Saturday at Campbelltown, while Levi will replace the injured Connor Watson at hooker.

The Tigers have their own injury concerns, with Josh Reynolds to come out of reserve grade and start at hooker for the first time in eight years in place of Robbie Farah and Jacob Liddle.

"Being a longer week we've been able to be really thorough," coach Michael Maguire said.

"The boys will get behind him and make sure they're getting the plays and calls right. And also looking after him defensively."

STATS THAT MATTER:

* A win will make for Newcastle's best season since 2010.

* Eight of the past nine clashes between the teams have been decided by single digits.

* The Tigers concede more tries from their own half their any other team, with 12 this year.

*Stats: Fox Sports

© AAP 2019