NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Round 8, 2014 NYC Premiership
Saturday, April 26 Kick-Off: 5.15 pm
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Last Time They Met:
Canterbury recorded a hard fought 26-14 victory over Newcastle in Round 17 last season, while the Knights proved too good in Round 6 with a comprehensive 50-26 win.
Gagai, Donovan, Mata'utia, Peni, Birch, Keenan, Feeney, Togiatasi, Levi (c), Yates, Tapine, Pondekas, Fitzgibbon. Bench: De Saxe, Smith, Koopu, Petterson-Robati.
Krisanski-Kennedy, Liolevave, Gerrey-Burgess, Seau, Langi, Keighran, Cox, Fualalo, Kamoto, Cope, To'omaga, Elliott (c), Creighton. Bench: King, Tsikrikas, Hunt, Kamire.
The table-topping Knights NYC team have been strong on the road this season with wins in Canberra, Townsville and Melbourne.
Club assistant coach Rick Stone believes this record should hold the side in good stead for their clash against the Bulldogs at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"Hopefully they’ve got one more win in them before a bye," Stone says.
"It’s hard for an NYC side to stay up mixing all the travel and work commitments.
"We’ve had a couple of big road trips, but the guys have been showing plenty of courage in recent weeks and will be up for the match."
The Bulldogs are languishing in 15th position after seven rounds of the season, but Stone insists this will count for little come Saturday.
"I don’t think the coach will be looking at the ladder too much," he says.
"He’ll be hoping that he has got one more good performance before he can back the boys off and give them a bit of a rest.
"But anytime you play the Dogs in the junior grades they are always big, aggressive and ready to play.
"The whole club is sort of built on that culture and it doesn’t change in the NYC."
Jacob Gagai vs Kyle Krisanski-Kennedy
Gagai did a great job at fullback last week filling in for Jake Mamo following his call-up to the NRL ranks.
The younger brother of first grade star Dane was strong with his carries and defence and Stone has no doubts he'll play a crucial role against the Bulldogs.
"Jacob did a pretty good job," he says in reference to his performance in the Round 7 draw against Brisbane.
"He has got some real footy in him.
"He is probably still physically developing as a player, but some of the things he did as a player were real clever.
"He scored a try and was sharp and he is a real threat when he gets the footy."
Harry Pondekas vs Adam Elliott
Pondekas has been brilliant for the Knights in recent weeks with his strong running game and brutal defence.
Stone has been highly impressed by the former Bronco, who provides the Knights with plenty of bite on the edges.
"Harry adds another dimension because he has a happy knack of breaking the line and finding a bit of skill or a step to give us opportunities," he says.
"He has been a great find and he has hit the ground running pretty much.
"He got here and then played the next week and pretty much found himself in the starting side within two weeks and has stayed there."
Danny Levi vs Robbie Kamoto
If you based man-of-the-match on effort, Levi would win the award every week.
From his never-say-die attitude through to his high work rate, it's hard to fault the youngest member of the Knights' NYC squad.
Stone can't speak highly enough of Levi, both as a player and captain.
"He is wholehearted Danny," he says.
"Every time he plays he doesn’t leave anything in the tank.
"His dummy half running in particular really is a threat for the opposition.
"Defensively he is sound and he is building up his minutes and he is playing more time.
"But as a captain he couldn’t be more inspirational to his team."
Player to watch:
The former Melbourne Storm forward has found a home at the Knights with a permanent position on the bench.
Stone expects Petterson-Robati to continue that form against the Bulldogs.
"Pride brings another offensive tool to the team," he enthuses.
"He has got a good bump and offload.
"He is probably still getting up to speed with the minutes that he hasn’t played, so that’s something that he needs to get his head around.
"But he definitely adds to our attacking force and he is a player to watch in the future."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle are stronger across the park, but a lot will depend on their mindset as to whether or not they can maintain their strong form.
There's no doubting the Bulldogs will come out firing on their home turf and the Knights must match them.
If they can go toe-to-toe in the enthusiasm stakes, then they should be too good on the back of their classy outside backs and forwards.
Watch out for Jaelen Feeney to star against his old club from halfback.