Defence is actually pretty important. Yes, you can get away with low defence, but it gets harder and harder. I've got a pet with 272 Strength, 574 Health, and 21 Defence; and a fairly nice set(including a Downsize!, Honey Potion, Ramtors Spellbook, and Stone Club). I'm still stuck on the Mootix Warrior. It turns into a race--can you kill them before you run out of HP? Also, if you have low defence, eventually only percentage blockers are of use. Not being able to use stat blockers turns into a problem when you choose your defence items.
NQ2 is worth the time, since A) you get a nice trophy and 30,000 NP(if I recall correctly) along with the weapon, B) three of the four weapons are an upgrade from your current stuff--Ramtors Spellbook and Scuzzys Comb are 10-iconers, and Halo of Devilpuss is a 6-10 iconer, and C) you can try for an Insane-level prize later.
There's also the Pike Pike, which you can get (if you're very lucky) from Underwater Fishing, so that's another place to try for a good weapon.
Ditch the potions from your set as soon as you can. They're decent at a very low level, but your pet is pretty much too strong for them to be much use now. The Downsize will become much more useful later, but for now it may not be the best choice.
I agree that the Stone Club or Ice Club would be good choices. you may want to start with one of these, sell it during a high point in the market, and when the market comes back down either get a Golden Compass or upgrade to 10-iconers. Look also at some of the other weapons Cranberry recommended earlier in this thread:
Enchanted Wooden Bow
Earth Faerie Slingshot
Earth Faerie Bow
Tyrannian Lupe Tooth
Essence of Esophagor, Psellias Fighting Fan
A Honey Potion is probably the bomb for you. I don't know of any better multi-use options in that price range(the next step up would be a Rainbow Clockwork Grundo), and it's what I'm using currently. Its big downside is that it's almost pure Earth icons, so you have to use it strategically.
I agree with Siouxper on the Greater Healing Scroll for healing. There's this unpleasant gap between the GHS and any next-step-up healer, unfortunately, so you'll probably have it for a while.
You can start with the Obsidian Dagger(an awesomely cheap 7-iconer) and put together a set as you review your options and choose weapons. Defence is a little trickier, as it'll change depending on the opponent. A Leaf Shield can be great on one opponent but useless on the next. You can collect defence items as needed for different opponents while you progress through Defenders of Neopia. Cranberry suggested the following in the aforementioned post:
Patched Magic Hat(Fire, Air, and Physical)
Sophies Magic Hat(Fire, Earth, Dark, and Physical)
Shiny Shoal Shell Shield(Water, Earth, Air, and Physical)
Earthen Scorchstone(Air, Dark)
Mystical White Cloak(Air, Light, Dark)
Virtupets X-514 Super Shield(Water, Light, Earth, Dark, and Physical)
They're all stat-blockers, so be sure to train defence while you're still using the Academy.
"Oh, better far to live and die/Under the brave black flag I fly/Than play a sanctimonious part/With a pirate head and a pirate heart."