Newcastle captain Danny Buderus has implored his players to lift their efforts for super coach Wayne Bennett, who faces the prospect of not being involved in rugby league finals for the first time in over two decades.
Saturday's 26-10 loss to Canterbury leaves the Knights sitting in ninth place and with one of the toughest draws over the final month of the regular NRL season.
With clashes with fellow top-eight contenders Cronulla (home), Manly (away), North Queensland (away) and South Sydney (home) to come, the Knights will need to produce their best football to feature in September action.
Newcastle's playoff hopes could suffer further damage with a loss to Cronulla on Monday week.
While the Knights are coming off a home defeat, the Sharks will arrive at Hunter Stadium full of confidence after emerging from a winless month with a barnstorming 41-4 victory over the Warriors in New Zealand on Sunday.
Bennett has failed to guide a team to the finals only three times in his celebrated coaching career which began at Canberra in 1987.
The Raiders made the grand final that season but, in his first two years with Brisbane in 1988 and 1989, plus in 1991, Bennett's Broncos did not qualify for the finals.
That was the last time rugby league finals did not feature the influence of the seven-time premiership-winning coach.
Buderus said it was up to his players to ensure Bennett's remarkable record continues.
"We got a lot of ticker in this team and we have got a lot of belief," Buderus said.
"(Our players), they want to play for the coach, they want to play for the area, there is a lot of pride in the place.
"We are a team that will draw a positive out of anything and we will draw a positive out of that second half (in which the Knights outscored the Bulldogs 6-2).
"We need a debrief and to get ready for the Sharks."
After their heavy first round loss, where do you expect the NZ Warriors to finish in the NRL regular season?Related story: (See story)