NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v WESTS TIGERS
Round 13, 2014 Holden Cup Premiership
Sunday, June 8 Kick-Off: 11.45am
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Last Time They Met:
The Tigers charged to a comfortable 22-12 victory over the Knights at Hunter Stadium in the opening round of last season.
Donovan, Lam, Mata'utia, Peni, Birch, Gagai, De Saxe, Taylor, Levi (c), Yates, Tapine, Fitzgibbon, Petterson-Robati. Interchange: Pondekas, King, Smith, Togiatasi.
Farrell, Tohi, Heleta, Milone (c), Ogden, Martin, Levido, Graham, Cherrington, Grant, Funaski, Liolevave, Woods. Interchange: Masila, Cassel, Kazzi, Ravkin, Satterthwaite.
Following two consecutive defeats, the Knights' table-topping NYC team head back home on Sunday for an important clash against the Tigers.
Club assistant coach Rick Stone has no doubts the team can hit back with a strong display on the weekend.
"They’ll be disappointed about losing two games in a row, but anytime you go and play the New Zealand Warriors in the NYC it’s a tough gig," Stone says.
"The effort was great, but our execution wasn’t perfect and we probably gave away some soft points.
"But overall I don’t think the coach will be too disappointed.
"I think he is looking for some improvement and getting back some consistency and getting another win to steady the ship a little bit against the Tigers."
Bryce Donovan vs Mason Farrell
Donovan will play fullback for the second week with Jake Mamo still sidelined with a back injury.
Stone was impressed with Bryce's effort in the No.1 jumper against the Warriors last Sunday and has no doubts he'll handle the role again this weekend.
"Bryce did a good job," he says.
"He is a good footy and player and a good all-round player. He is a decent goal kicker and brings a couple of things to the position, particularly passing game.
"He has got a really good passing game having played a lot in the halves as a junior.
"It’s a big loss not to have Jake of course, but Bryce is doing a real good job.”
Joe Tapine vs Salesi Funaki
Tapine was brilliant in his return match to the NYC ranks last weekend against the Warriors.
From his potent running game through to his ability to beat defenders, the New Zealand-born back-rower stood out as one of the best on the field.
Watching on from the sidelines, Stone was blown away by Tapine's performance.
"Joey is a strong player," he says.
"He has been in the NYC for two years now and he has represented New Zealand in the under 20s.
"So he is one of our key players and we need him to play well if we are going to win more games.
"His impact on the game is terrific and he is starting to realise his responsibility in the team and he is turning up each week and doing a good job."
Luke Yates vs Jordan Grant
Newcastle's NYC team is full of big-name players but according to Stone it's one of the team's lesser-known talents that deserves plenty of praise.
"Luke is a bit of an unsung hero for the NYC team," he beams.
"He runs the tough lines, does the grubby stuff and competes on each play playing up front.
"He is a local boy from Wests who has been really impressive this year and done a great job."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle is yet to be beaten at home this season and this should continue against the Tigers on Sunday.
The Knights have proven to be fast starters at Hunter Stadium, leading at the break in three of their four clashes there in 2014.
If this trend can continue on the weekend, Newcastle should cruise to a comfortable victory on the back of their overall strength.
In saying this, the Knights will be without key players Jake Mamo and Jaelen Feeney and must maintain their high standards to get the win.