Newcastle, and newly elected Queensland coach, Michael Hagan said he looks forward to an improved attitude from his side this season after a disappointing end to last year�s premiership campaign.
Writing on the Knights� official website, Hagan described the final match against the Roosters as having �left a bad taste in the mouths [of] supporters, sponsors, players and staff.�
Hagan described the Knights performance in that game as �poor�, but hoped such a match would spur the side to an improved performance in 2004.
Entering his fourth year as coach, Hagan said injuries had hurt the Knights in the past 18 months; a factor that he hoped would have less of an impact this season.
�Injuries have been well documented and we seem to be a lot healthier this year, than we were at the same time last year,� he said.
�While not offering excuses, whether we like it or not, the number and severity of injuries suffered and representative commitments did have an adverse effect on our year.�
Despite introducing ten debutants to the rigours of first grade in 2003, Hagan said he looked forward to seeing more new faces in the line-up as the side looks to establish a greater depth.
The Knights have bolstered their side with off-season recruits Steve Witt (Parramatta), Jamie Fitzgerald (Souths), Russell Richardson (Souths), Kevin Henderson (Souths), David Seage (Wynumm Manly) and a number of players who impressed in the local competition in 2003.
Hagan said he hoped that these off-season acquisitions would provide increased competition for places.
�[It] is something that we have not been in position to do for a number of season due to the restrictions placed upon our club by the Salary Cap,� Hagan said.
Hagan has also called for his squad to lift their defensive standard, citing the success of the Sydney Roosters defensive style.
�The Roosters have increased the level from an intensity point of view... so they are certainly the benchmark for how teams defend.�
Hagan said he expected representative players Andrew Johns, Matthew Gidley, Ben Kennedy and Timana Tahu would be returning to the side refreshed from the off-season.
The Knights play their first premiership match against the 2003 Premiers, the Penrith Panthers, on Friday March 12.