NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Round 15, 2014 Holden Cup Premiership
Monday June 23, Kick-Off: 4.45pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle recorded a comfortable 32-16 victory over the Cowboys in Townsville in Round 5 this season.
Donovan, Robson, Mata'utia, Peni, Birch, Gagai, Feeney, Togitasi, Levi (c), Yates, Fitzgibbon, Pondekas, Boyce. Interchange: De Saxe, Petterson-Robati, Taylor, Pakau.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Bowie, O'Neill, Magey, Carey, Schulte, Ashby, Bambling, Kikau, Chudleigh, Kelleher (c), Hess, Jensen, Munro. Interchange: Clarke, Niemoeller, Grieve, Barclay.
Newcastle may have returned to form last weekend with a strong victory over the highly fancied Sydney Roosters, but the team still has plenty of room for improvement.
Just ask Club assistant coach Rick Stone, who nominates the team's slow starts to matches as a key area of development.
"I think the coach will be talking about getting his starts organised, because that’s something we haven’t done too well in the past few weeks," Stone says.
"So if they can start well, then I’m sure they can have a positive night.
"They had a good win against the Roosters, especially after trailing early, so hopefully they can continue that form."
Bryce Donovan vs Yamba Bowie
Donovan has starred for the Knights' 20s at fullback in the absence of Jake Mamo.
The local Wests Newcastle junior is a genuine all-rounder according to Stone.
"Bryce has played a lot of positions as a junior coming up for us," he explains.
"He has played half, five-eighth, fullback and wing and it just shows his versatility jumping in at fullback and doing a terrific job.
"His goal kicking is probably a added bonus, because he is a real good goal kicker and his percentage rate is really high.
"He is really fit and he is around the ball a lot and turns up at the right time not by coincidence."
Sione Mata'utia vs Lenny Magey
Newcastle welcome back star centre Sione Mata'utia from NSW Under 18s duties for Monday's clash against the Cowboys.
Mata'utia performed strongly for the junior Blues in their 24-10 victory over the Maroons and Stone expects the classy outside back to maintain this high standard for his club.
"It's been a big week for Sione," he says.
"He is a class act, on-and-off the field and he has shown he is mature enough to handle the step-ups thrown his way.
"He played NSW U18s on Wednesday night and then he’ll come back and help his side on Monday night.
"Then in a couple of weeks hopefully there is an opportunity for him to play in the NRL."
Pride Petterson-Robati vs Jack Kelleher
Petterson-Robati may be starting on the bench but watch out for him to make a heap of impact when he comes on.
Stone thoroughly enjoys watching the former Storm bookend play, especially when he runs the ball with plenty of vigour and energy.
"Pride has got plenty of footy sense about him," he says.
"He knows were to be and his anticipation is terrific.
"He is still finding his way in the team a little bit after being a late inclusion mid-year from Melbourne.
"But he has got some good footy traits and he is a good asset to the team.
"I still think there is a little bit more to come from him and even he’ll be the first to admit that.
"So hopefully we see some of that form at the backend of the year."
Player to watch:
The rookie outside back impressed in his maiden NYC match against the Roosters last Saturday night.
Robson is normally a centre in the SG Ball ranks, but showed his class with a solid effort on the wing in the 20s ranks.
Stone has no doubts the Murwillumbah junior has a big future in the game.
"Braden is still at school and he played right-centre for our Under 18s team this year," he says.
"He is a real good ball carrier. He was probably in an unfamiliar position on the wing, but he still handled himself alright and he’ll only get better for the run."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle may be back in form but they need to maintain their standards against the Cowboys on Monday night.
As mentioned, the Knights' slow starts to matches needs desperate addressing and must prove if they are to progress well into the finals this season.
North Queensland is currently in 13th position on the ladder, but they are still a dangerous team and the Knights will need to be on guard.
The return of star centre Sione Mata'utia will help Newcastle's chances, while the home ground advantage should see them get the two competition points.