St Helens boss Paul Wellens has had a heart-to-heart talk with Morgan Knowles after the 26-year-old international picked up his fifth ban in eight months following a 26-6 Challenge Cup victory at Halifax Panthers on Friday night.
‘Tighten up your discipline or it could cost us an unprecedented fifth Super League crown on the bounce’ was the jist of Wellens’ hard-hitting message to the Cumbrian, who was returning to first team action at the Shay following a five-match ban and was sent off for a high tackle in the dying embers of the tie.
It means Knowles will now miss the trip to Leeds Rhinos on Friday and the Magic Weekend showdown with Huddersfield Giants at Newcastle on Sunday, June 4.
Wellens, however, insists he would not swap England star Knowles for any other forward in the competition but says he must learn his lessons in a season in which disciplinary issues have begun to cost Saints dear.
"I spoke to Morgan individually and obviously he’s disappointed and frustrated,” said Wellens. "He is probably the best middle forward in the competition and I wouldn’t want to swap him for anybody, but at the same time there are certain aspects of his game that he needs to improve on.
"His challenge is to keep his identity, because what has made him one of the best players in the competition is the fact that he can play tough and physical, but I’ve sat down with him and defined the areas where he’s probably overstepped the mark."
Wellens knows that Knowles is not the only Saints’ player who has let himself down in terms of discipline at times this season, in which they struggled to shake off the after-effects of their pre-season world title win in Australia, and sit in seventh place approaching the midway point of the season.
"We have got a number of players who like to play the game physically and on the edge, but if you are one of those players then discipline is the most important thing for you, and too many times this year we’ve gone way over the line," added Wellens.
"I’ve used the incidents from last week and previously to draw a line in the sand in terms of what I expect of the players moving forward. There’s a certain moderation of behaviour required if you are going to play the game that way.
"If we’d handled a few areas differently in terms of discipline we’d probably be sitting second or third. That’s how important it is to get it right because decisions like that can affect you pretty badly."