AAP Rugby

Knights prop hits best NRL numbers in 2020

By AAP Newswire

A new mindset under a rookie coach has helped Newcastle big man Daniel Saifiti achieve the best stats of his NRL career in a monster performance against Penrith.

The 24-year-old State of Origin prop played a whopping 70 minutes in the 14-14 draw with the Panthers, emerging as a leader in the Knights pack.

Typifying a new focus on defence, Saifiti made 45 tackles - the most in his NRL career, coupled with 217 running-metres, his highest tally since round 11, 2016 - his debut season.

Knights legend Andrew Johns described the team's performance as the bravest he had seen from his former club, and Saifiti puts it down to a new mentality ushered in by coach Adam O'Brien.

It's a sense of belief in the team that has been missing for years.

"There were times last year when we were in the same situation, and I was probably part of it, people were looking towards guys like (Mitchell) Pearce and (Kalyn Ponga) to break the game open," he said.

"(Now) when both of them aren't on the field, everyone has the mindset of 'I can contribute to doing something good here'.

"Not having any winning seasons, we know what that (negative) mindset is and the longer we stay away from it, the longer we can go without it."

The Origin props, including David Klemmer and Tim Glabsy, will hunt as a pack in 2020, while Saifiti wants to improve his quality of stats over quantity against competition favourites Canberra on Sunday.

Saifiti's twin Jacob has also started the season with a bang after an injury-interrupted 2019 in which he broke his leg during a pub fight and played just seven NRL games.

"In the off-season we talked and he said he felt like he wasted three years," Daniel said.

"I told him not to look at it like that, it's a learning curve.

"He saw it as a new start, with Adsy (coach O"Brien) coming in it was like a breath of fresh air and he trained the house down.

"I'm so proud of him and the way he's played the first three games is a reward for that."