NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Round 12, 2014 VB NSW Cup Premiership
Sunday, June 1 Kick-Off: 9.40am (AEST) / 11.40am (Local)
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle charged to a comfortable 30-10 victory over the then Auckland Vulcans in Round 3 last season.
Ross, Mantellato, Wiliame, P Mata'utia, Ikinofo, Minto, Dobson, Likiliki, Waddell, Vaivai, Elias, Randall, Hilder (c). Interchange: Redman, Horwood, Hartin, Tupou.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Waetford, Tua, Kata, Peyroux, Wilson, Tuimavave, Cook, Gubb, Sio, Peteru, Ki, Faitala-Mariner, Palavi. Interchange: Papalii, Poaching, Vate, Bhana.
You don't have to remind NSW Cup coach Rick Stone that a lot can change in rugby league.
It was just four weeks ago when his side led the competition on the back of some quality football.
Flash forward a month and Stone's Knights are languishing in eighth position heading into Sunday's clash against the Warriors in New Zealand.
"It just goes to show how close the competition is and fortunes can change with a couple of losses or wins," Stone reasons.
"We are confident that we are building towards a good performance.
"If we can cut out some silly errors and some poor options at the end we can at least give ourselves a chance."
Stone is fully aware of the challenge that awaits his side in New Zealand.
The Warriors are traditionally a fearsome team built on size and aggression and the Knights must limit their possession to get the win.
"It’s always a tough task for any team going over there," he says.
"We haven’t performed too well in recent weeks and we’ve lost two games we probably should have won.
"They were good close games, but I bit of game management really let us down against North Sydney and the Tigers.
"So that’s four-in-a-row for us now, so we need to get back in a winning way and we need to play well to get the points."
Nathan Ross vs Steve Waetford
Ross struggled in his return match from a quad strain against the Tigers last weekend but coach Stone expects this to change in New Zealand.
"Nathan got dismissed with a professional foul with 25 minutes to go, which made it hard on us," he says.
"So he’ll look to make up for that and hopefully he can come out and play well for us on the weekend."
James Elias vs Michael Ki
Elias has been one of the team's real quiet achievers this season.
From his versatility through to his consistency, the hard working forward Nelson Bay product is an integral member of Stone's side.
"James has been great for us the whole year," he enthuses.
"He started on the bench and has played centre, back-row and even lock forward.
"He was one of the younger players coming out of the NYC last year and he has really stepped up to basically cement a place in the NSW Cup team.
"He deserves to be where he is and he deserves a bit recognition for sure."
Pat Mata'utia vs Dominique Peyroux
Stone has been highly impressed with Mata'utia this season.
"Pat has been terrific in his first year out of the NYC," he says.
"He comes from a very talented family and he has now established himself.
"He has played a bit of fullback, centre and definitely deserves a chance in the top grade if an opportunity comes along."
Player to watch:
Ben Tupou has been a shining light off the bench for the Knights according to Stone.
"Ben has played with us for the last couple of years, on-and-off," he says.
"But the last couple of weeks he has really taken his opportunity with two hands and carried the ball really strongly and his defence has really picked up.
"Hopefully he can stay with us, more than with South Newcastle in the coming weeks."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle may be battling for form after four consecutive defeats but you can expect them to come out hard against the Warriors.
While the Knights haven't been getting the wins, they've showcased plenty of ability and heart.
As coach Stone rightly points out though, the team just needs to improve their execution at vital periods of matches.
If this can happen in Auckland on Sunday, then they are more than capable of returning to the winner's circle against the Warriors.