No social media for Knights after losing battle of wits

Jacob Shteyman |

Bulldogs’ Reed Mahoney (centre) scuffles with Knights players during his side’s win in Newcastle.
Bulldogs’ Reed Mahoney (centre) scuffles with Knights players during his side’s win in Newcastle.

Canterbury’s Reed Mahoney may not cut the NRL’s most imposing figure, but the diminutive hooker’s days of flying under the radar are over after developing a reputation as the competition’s premier pest.

What the 5ft 9in dummy-half lacks in physicality he makes up for with an uncanny knack for getting under his opponents’ skin.

“It’s not like you’re not gonna know that that fella is going to be involved in it. He does it every week,” Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien groaned after Mahoney once again eked a moment of madness out of one of his frustrated players.

“We need to be better there.”

Prop Jacob Saifiti was given his marching orders in the final minute of the Knights’ 32-2 loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night after Mahoney goaded the larger man into a needless head-butt.

Canterbury’s No.9 was already a marked man before he entered McDonald Jones Stadium following his run-in with Newcastle’s Jack Hetherington when the two sides met in April.

Mahoney on that occasion also received a yellow card for inciting the prop forward and the pair squared off in a fiery exchange in the tunnel.

A week later, he found himself at the centre of a melee with Wests Tigers’ prop Alex Seyfarth as he helped his side to a 22-14 win.

But Mahoney was evasive when asked about what he made of the incident with Saifiti.

“I’m not sure. We’ll enjoy the win and get back Monday. We’ve got a big game coming up into a bye, so we’ll be looking forward to that,” he said.

Despite dominating field position in the first half, the Knights were rattled by the Dogs’ tenacity in defence.

Coach O’Brien felt his men had lost some mental sharpness after a bye the previous week and become distracted by the adulation coming their way after four consecutive wins.

“The thing for now is we’ve got to make sure that we go down (to Melbourne Storm) with a really good mindset, that we can play well, and we need to prepare and train that way,” he said.

“We probably need to batten the hatches down and get off social media and don’t read too much what you guys are gonna write. Maybe we were reading too much of that leading up to this one about how good we were going. So now we’ll look inwards and try to fix it.”

The loss also marked a turnaround in fortunes for rookie Knights fullback David Armstrong, whose dazzling form has sparked a battle between the Roosters and his current club for his signature.

The Mungindi marvel has scored five tries since coming into the side for the injured Kalyn Ponga, including a scintillating hat-trick against Gold Coast last time out.

Asked whether the contract talks had gotten to his head, O’Brien conceded it was a possibility.

“He’s only a young bloke,” he said. 

“He’s played four games and been getting plenty of pats on the back and it’s all new to him. There’s speculation about contracts and management and all that. He’s young, he’ll learn from it.”