NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NORTH SYDNEY BEARS
Round 23, 2014 NSW Cup
Saturday March 22
St John Oval, Charlestown, Newcastle
Last Time They Met:
The Bears' charged to a comprehensive 23-10 victory at North Sydney Oval in round 22, while Newcastle claimed the spoils in round 14 with a 20-10 win at home.
Tuha, Mantellato, Willame, P.Mata’utia, C.Mata’utia, Randell, Kerr, Likiliki. Redman, Vaivai, Sims, Tetevano, Hilder (c). Bench: Clydsdale, Horwood, Steele, Siulepa, Elias.
NORTH SYDNEY BEARS
Morgan, A.Johnston, Champion, Gray, C.Johnston, Worboys, Koroisau, Neale, McInnes, Lupi, Roberts (c), Grevsmuhl. Hyland. Bench: Areaiiti, Low, Williams, South, Toole.
With Newcastle coming off their first home loss for over a year, the intensity at training this week has lifted considerably.
Coach Rick Stone admits his side was disappointing against Mounties last week and must improve when they take on North Sydney on Saturday.
"Obviously we'll have to improve," Stone says frankly about a Bears side that will be fresh coming off the bye.
"Mounties played really well and I was really impressed with their performance, but not so much our own.
"We lacked a little bit of desire and intent in defence.
"We were terrific the week before (against Penrith). So we've got to dust ourselves off and get ourselves ready.
"Norths generally produce a pretty good team and a big and physical one too.
"So it will be more of the same on the weekend if we are not ready."
The Knights are taking Saturday's match against the Bears to St John Oval in Charlestown.
Stone says his team enjoying playing at the regional facilities in front of all their friends and family.
"I think sometimes us taking our games to the suburban grounds is an advantage to us," he says.
"We know what to expect, but sometimes the visiting teams don't know what to expect as much.
"It's a good little complex where we are playing at Charlestown.
"It's in conjunction with a Central Charlestown and Lakes United in a local league pre-season game."
There's no doubting Newcastle were below their best against Mounties, but Stone says his team are ready to make amends.
Helping the Knights' cause will be the return of forward Zane Tetevano, who has been named in the second-row to play in his first match in 2014 after breaking his hand in the off-season.
"Zane has been out for about four weeks now and he has been itching at the bit to get back," he says.
"He got his clearance during the week, so he'll be super keen to get out there and get amongst it on Saturday."
Hooker Adam Clydsdale will be another player looking to star against the Bears after making his return from an off-season knee injury against Mounties last weekend.
Clydsdale came off the bench for the Knights against Mounties and was solid, but Stone concedes there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"Adam needed the run, because he was a little bit dusty to be fair," he says.
"He also injured himself up in Tamworth, so he has had a month off just like Zane.
"But he is a good quality player and hopefully there is some first grade in him this year.
"He'll be better for the run and hopefully he can play a bit more time this week."
While the Knights have proved they can beat the Bears in the past, Stone remains wary of them heading into Saturday's clash.
"Yeah they always produce a good side, especially early," he says.
"They have got a lot of full-time players with a lot of size and strength.
"We did have trouble with them last year. I think we played them four times and only beat them once, so we are up against it and we realise that.
"They generally come with a real physical game, so we need to be ready for that and improve a fair bit on what we did against Mounties last week."
Tyler Randell vs Jordan Worboys
Randell has been on the Knights' stars in the opening rounds from five-eighth. As a consistent performer with a strong passing game, Randell plays a vital role in ensuring Newcastle is firing in attack.
His battle with Jordan Worboys, a former Canberra Raider with similar attacking flair should be a feature of this match.
Korbin Sims vs Jesse Roberts
On the back of his strong charges and determined defence, Sims continues to be one of the Knights' best performers. The Gerringong-born forward was bitterly disappointed with last week's loss to Mounties and will be fired up for a big match-up against the Bears.
Standing in his way will be North Sydney captain Jesse Roberts, a proud product of the South Sydney Rabbitohs production line and a player with plenty of grunt in attack and defence.
How the game will be won:
The forwards. As coach Stone rightly pointed out earlier, North Sydney has always possessed a big pack of forwards. It will be up to the likes of Toka Likiliki, Pat Vaivai, Zane Tetevano and Korbin Sims to set the platform up front to allow the Club's outside backs to pile on the points.
If the Knights win the forwards battle, then they should be too strong at home.