NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Round 15, 2014 VB NSW CUP Premiership
Sunday June 22, Kick-Off: 3pm
Venue: No.2 Sportsground, Newcastle
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle recorded a dominant 44-12 victory over the Bulldogs at Belmore Oval in Round 8 this season.
Ross, Mantellato, Wilame, Tahu, C.Mata'utia, Minto, Dobson, Horwood, Waddell, Vaivai, Elias, Randell, Hilder (c). Interchange: Redman, Steele, Underwood, Koopu, Hartin.
Graham, Phillips, Murphy, Dodd, Brennan, Templeton, McGrady, Fualalo, Cook, Makatoa, Burr, Minute, Alaalatoa. Interchange: Massaey, Azzi, Clarke, Binge.
Newcastle's NSW Cup side is riding high on confidence after last Saturday's victory over the Newtown Jets at Henson Park.
The two-point triumph over the Jets snapped a six-game losing streak, while it has also built plenty of belief for Sunday's match against the Bulldogs.
Coach Rick Stone is looking forward to return to Newcastle's No.2 Sportsground, a venue were the Knights traditionally perform strongly.
"I think the boys are comfortable playing at No.2," Stone says.
"A lot will depend on which team both sides finish with, especially the Bulldogs NRL side playing on Friday night in Canberra.
"Bit we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves and prepare the best we can.
"We are a small team at the moment and we haven’t got a lot of big players, but we’ve got some real skillful and tenacious players.
"We showed that against Newtown and hopefully we can take a bit of belief out of that."
Timana Tahu vs Levi Dodd
Tahu wasn't at his brilliant best in his return match against Newtown last weekend, but coach Stone expects the veteran centre to be better for the run.
"You’d expect him to be a bit rusty in his first game back, but there were some good signs from Timana," he says.
"He is a real pro and he brings some experience and confidence to the footy team, particularly playing a lower grade.
"He also doesn’t shirk his responsibility of being a senior player and a bit of a leader."
Michael Dobson vs Lindon McGrady
Dobson announced this week that he'll be returning to England at seasons end to join Salford on a four-year deal.
The former Raider has been a consistent performer for the Knights in his limited time at the Club.
Coach Stone says Dobson will leave a hole when he departs, especially when it comes to his leadership.
"Dobbo has been a terrific player, especially for some of these younger blokes in the reserve grade team.
"Obviously he started for Mullo earlier on in the season and hasn’t played another NRL game since around Round 6.
"But he has been a real leader for me in the NSW Cup.
"His game planning, kicking and composure has been really important to us."
Josh Mantellato vs Tyrone Phillips
Mantellato has been plagued by an ankle injury in recent weeks, but he returned to form against Newtown last weekend.
The Italian World Cup representative scored two tries, while he kicked four goals in the victory.
Stone hopes to see Mantellato continue this form against the Bulldogs on Sunday.
"Josh rolled his ankle against the Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium, so it has been a tough few weeks for him," he says.
"But he scored a couple of tries against the Jets and also kicked a few goals, which was the difference between the two teams."
Player to watch:
Stone can't speak highly enough of his inspirational skipper.
"He doesn’t say a lot Matty, but he leads by example," he enthuses.
"Last week against Newtown he was really good for us.
"He played about 70 continuous minutes and was a real force in the middle of the park.
"He also laid on some great passes, but his defence in the middle was outstanding."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle has rediscovered their mojo in attack and defence, so they'll be extremely confident heading into this one.
The Knights always perform strongly on home turf, so you can expect plenty of points at No.2 Sportsground on Sunday.
Watch for forwards Brenton Horwood and Pat Vaivai to lead the charge up front with their powerful running.
If this happens and the team's outside backs get plenty of ball, then the Knights should be too strong on home turf.