NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Round 2, 2014 NRL Premiership
Sunday, March 16
NRL Kick-Off 6.30pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referees: Adam Devcich, Henry Perenara
Last Time They Met:
Round 9, 2013, the Raiders proved too good winning 44-14 at Canberra Stadium.
Newcastle claimed victory in round four though, charging to a comfortable 28-12 win at Hunter Stadium.
The Club’s most recent clash against the Raiders was a trial in Tamworth in late February - a match won 34-10.
Newcastle has won five of their last nine matches against Canberra since 2009.
At Hunter Stadium, the Knights also hold the advantage having won three of their last four clashes against the Raiders since 2009.
Gidley (c), McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Dobson, Roberts, Snowden, Waddell, Mason, Scott, Rochow, Smith. Bench: McKinnon, Houston, Fa’alogo, Cuthbertson, Minto, Mamo. (extended bench)
Milford, Robinson, Croker, Allwood, Lee, Wighton, Campese (c), Tilse, Buttriss, White, Papalii, Edwards, Fensom. Bench: McCrone, Kennedy, Vaughan, Boyd.
Fuelled by the disappointment of the Club's opening round loss against Penrith, assistant coach Rick Stone says the team has returned to training this week fully focused on a strong showing against Canberra at home on Sunday.
"The guys are disappointed in themselves that’s for sure," Stone concedes.
"Our last couple of sessions probably weren’t as good as we needed them to be, so we’ve now sharpened the pencil really well from this week and there has been a good vibe around training."
As a result of Boyd's absence, skipper Kurt Gidley has been named at fullback and Travis Waddell will start at hooker.
Stone has no doubts the team will miss Boyd's experience, but believes Gidley is a proven replacement.
"Kurt has done that job for a long time and he has got plenty of experience at it," he says.
"In saying that, he got thrown in the deep end a little bit last week (against Penrith), but he’ll do some work in that position during the week and there’s no doubt he’ll do a good job for us on Sunday."
Following Jarrod Mullen's pre-season hamstring injury, the Club has named new recruit Michael Dobson at five-eighth to partner Tyrone Roberts in the halves.
The pair struggled to build a combination in the opening round due to injuries to key players, but Stone insists they'll be better against the Raiders.
"It was obviously a bit disjointed with injuries and a couple of positional changes against the Panthers," he says.
"So it made it hard for Dobson, but he threw a really nice ball for the Beau Scott try and that’s the sort of thing that he can do.
"So if we can get him in more positions to be able to do that, then we’ll see a bit more of Dobson and some of his best.
"It's the same for Tyrone."
The Club has named new recruit Matt Minto and NYC winger Jake Mamo an extended bench for the Canberra clash.
Minto, who joins the Knights from the Mackay Cutters in the Intrust Super Cup, was strong in the NSW Cup last weekend at halfback. He also has the ability to play hooker/fullback and will provide the side with great utility value.
Mamo scored a hat-trick in the Club's impressive 34-22 NYC win over defending premiers Penrith last weekend and is ready to take his chance in the NRL after training with the full-time squad all summer.
"It probably just gives the coach a bit of flexibility there," Stone says.
"We’ve got a longer week to sort a few things out and we don’t have to rush in making some decisions.
"The Raiders came out and played with some conviction and belief in the opening round against the Cowboys and I’m expecting them to do the same this week.
"But it will be good for us to get back in front of our home crowd, because they are always a great support and lift when we come home."
Tyrone Roberts vs Terry Campese
By his standards, Roberts was quiet in the season-opener against Penrith. Obviously his case wasn't helped when he came off in the 64th minute with concussion.
On the back of that disappointment and a strong week on the training paddock, you can expect a significantly stronger performance from the No.7 against the Raiders.
Roberts' battle with Campese, the biggest halfback in the NRL, will go a long way to deciding this one.
Kurt Gidley vs Anthony Milford
With Darius Boyd sidelined with a hamstring injury, Gidley returns to the No.1 jumper where he has proven himself to be a capable performer over the years.
The inspirational skipper has recovered from concussion suffered in the opening round and is ready to lead his team on home turf against the Raiders.
Standing in his way is Canberra excitement machine Anthony Milford, a player Gidley and his teammates must contain to taste victory on Sunday.
Kade Snowden vs Dane Tilse
This match-up between these two big boppers will be crucial. Both proud Hunter products from Belmont and Scone respectively, Snowden and Tilse have the responsibility of setting a strong platform up front for their teams.
If Snowden can reclaim the type of form he showcased last season and get over the top of Tilse, it will give Newcastle a big edge.
Where will it be won:
The forwards. Canberra has a huge pack led by the likes of Brett White, Josh Papalii and Tilse and the Knights must contain them. If this happens, the men in red and blue have the firepower out wide through Aku Uate, Dane Gagai and James McManus to get the win on home turf.