NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Round 8, 2014 NSW Cup
Saturday, April 26 Kick-Off: 1.30pm
Venue: Belmore Sports Ground, Sydney
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle recorded two wins over the Bulldogs last season. The first was a 26-18 victory in Round 8, while the second was a comfortable 38-20 triumph in Round 17.
Ross, Mantellato, Wiliame, P.Mata'utia, C.Mata'utia, Randell, Dobson, Fa'alogo, Waddell, Vaivai, Elias, Siulepa, Hilder (c). Bench: Redman, Horwood, Steele, Tupou, Likiliki.
Low, Phillips, Dood, Murphy, Brennan, Templeman, Graham, Perrett, Cooke, Alaalatoa, Burr, Maitua, O'Hanlan. Bench: Makatoa, Azzi, Clarke, Minute, McGrady.
Newcastle may have demolished Wyong last week, but coach Rick Stone says they can't afford to be complacent when they take on Canterbury-Bankstown on Saturday afternoon.
While the Bulldogs have struggled in the opening rounds, Stone knows that won't mean much on their home turf at Belmore Sports Ground.
"Even though the Dogs haven’t performed that well in the NSW Cup, their team is choc full of decent players and you’d expect them to click pretty soon," Stone says.
"And always when you go to Belmore it’s a tough gig.
"I think we can improve a bit on what we did last weekend, but probably the most important thing for us will be putting in back-to-back performances together.
"Particularly defensively, because that is a stepping-stone for us to have a good game."
Nathan Ross vs Drury Low
Ross has only been back from injury for two weeks, but he has made an immediate impact with his class from fullback.
The former Kurri Kurri Bulldog has scored four tries in the past fortnight, while his running game has been equally potent.
Stone believes Ross will again feature prominently against the Dogs.
"I think Nathan could be real crucial going forward," he says.
"He has only played two games and he has won our man-of-the-match both times.
"So he has showed that he is definitely up to this standard and he can be a possibility of jumping to the next standard in the NRL.
"But he has got a few things in his game that he knows he needs to work on.
"He is doing a bit of full-time training at the moment, which is helping him train with the best players we’ve got in the club.
"Hopefully he’ll continue to improve as a fullback and as a fullback he definitely brings an ex-factor to our team."
Michael Dobson vs Jaline Graham
It's never easy getting dropped from the NRL, but Michael Dobson has been all class since returning to the NSW Cup according to Stone.
"Of course Dobbo would have been disappointed to be left out of the first grade team," Stone says.
"I think with the real genuine blokes, it’s how they respond when they come into the reserve grade team.
"And Dobbo has been good and he definitely hasn’t spat his dummy.
"He is working hard to get back into the team and his kicking and passing game is a big bonus for the team."
Matt Hilder vs Pat O'Hanlon
Matt Hilder may be 31-years-old and a veteran of three clubs, but the hard-working lock forward continues to impress.
Stone can't speak highly enough of Hilder, a bloke who constantly inspires his younger teammates with his desire.
"I think it’s important that some of our younger blokes get the chance to play with some of these senior players like Matty," he stresses.
"Their work ethic at training and during the game is great. They also have the ability not to panic in tight situations and understand how to close out tight games.
"Matty personifies that and he leads by example.
"He doesn’t say a lot, but he has got a lot of respect right across the club.
"Anyone who has played 100 games for two different clubs and now he is captain of our reserve grade side, it going to add plenty to our team."
Where it will be won:
There's no doubting Newcastle deserves favouritism, but they can't afford to be complacent as coach Stone rightly points out.
The Bulldogs are always hard to beat at Belmore and the Knights will need to maintain their strong form to get the job done away from home.
If Newcastle can set a strong platform up front though, then they should be strong led by classy outside backs Nathan Ross and Chanel Mata'utia and the direction of halfback Michael Dobson.