O'Brien threatens axe if Knights falter

Still seething from his team's NRL loss to Canterbury, Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien says he will drop players if they do not improve against Melbourne.

ADAM O'BRIEN.
ADAM O'BRIEN. Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien has threatened to swing the axe if he doesn't see a response from his NRL team against Melbourne on Sunday.

O'Brien accused his players of being entitled after their shock loss to Canterbury last weekend, which dropped them out of the top four and into sixth.

The rookie coach gave the Knights another rev up at training but they face one of the toughest tests in the competition against the Storm.

O'Brien warned that if players didn't make changes he would do it for them the following week against Wests Tigers.

"If I don't get a bounce back this week then I need to make personnel changes," he said.

"That's what will happen.

"If a young guy hasn't been tried, if I think he is going to come out and give us effort, then I will put him in.

"Madge (Tigers coach Michael Maguire) has proved that works.

"There are some other guys fighting for their footy life after last week."

O'Brien said his issues were not limited to on-field performance but in preparation as well.

The Knights have not played finals football since 2013 but their roster of representative stars has now been built where the top eight is the expectation.

"It wasn't only the game, but stuff I was talking about was around our week and our preparation," O'Brien said.

"I just thought it had loosened a little bit and some things needed to be tightened up.

"The 10 weeks or so of the constant grind, I felt like we took our eyes off what's important.

"But there is going to be more adversity, so we better get used to it."

Newcastle's more immediate challenges are obvious.

They are down to their fourth-string hooker with Andrew McCullough and Connor Watson joining Jayden Brailey on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Both replacement hooker Chris Randall and bench dummy-half Phoenix Crossland have played just one NRL game each, with the former making a record 71 tackles on debut in round three.

But O'Brien takes confidence that while there has been no reserve grade matches, the Knights had scrimmages against rival clubs before the NRL's bubble was tightened again.

"We've had the most scrimmages out of anyone in the NRL, so those guys have had three more than most," O'Brien said.