THE Newcastle Knights are 12 points a game better off than last year, and while defence has been their priority since new coach Adam O'Brien, a former Batemans Bay Tiger, arrived for pre-season training, without fuss or fanfare they are developing into one of the NRL's most potent attacking units.
Six rounds into the 2020 campaign, the Knights have scored the second-most points in the competition, racking up 149 at an average of just under 25 per game.
Only two-time premiers Sydney Roosters, with a mind-boggling 175 points, have scored more.
Newcastle's 24.8 points-per-game ratio is 4.6 points more than their average last year (485 at 20.2).
That amounts to an 11.7-points turnaround, and while they have improved from 13th to seventh from a defensive perspective, it is their attack that has attracted comparatively little attention.
Official NRL statistics provide an insight into why the second-placed Knights are causing problems for rival teams.
Of their 26 tries (only the Roosters have scored more, with 28), teenage centre Bradman Best and winger Edrick Lee have scored five apiece, striking up an instant combination on the left edge.
But it is a no-frills, power game that appears to be the secret to Newcastle's new-found success.
The Knights have the highest set-completion average in the NRL (83 per cent), have made the second-most runs (1214) and have gained the second-most post-contact metres (3896).
They have made the most supporting-play runs (805), over 100 more than their nearest rivals, yet rank 13th for off-loads.
All of which suggests that running hard, controlling the ball and having bodies in motion is their simple but effective modus operandi.
Newcastle's points-per-game average is the highest it has been since 2006, which was the last time they finished in the top four and qualified for a home final.
The Knights were skippered that season by Immortal Andrew Johns, who gave his modern-day counterparts a glowing review on Monday after their 27-6 win against Brisbane last week.
"If it was a dry track, they would have won by 50," Johns said on Channel Nine.
"They were far superior, the Knights."
With four wins and a draw from six games, the Knights are off to their best start to any season since 2002.
"Their forwards are rolling forward, they're fit, they're well coached and their creative players in [Mitchell] Pearce and [Kalyn] Ponga are killing it," Johns said.
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