NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PARRAMATTA EELS
Round 16, 2014 Holden Cup Premiership
Sunday, June 29 Kick-Off: 12.45pm
Venue: Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle cruised to a comfortable 46-18 victory over Parramatta at Hunter Stadium in the final round of last season.
Donovan, Robson, Mata'utia, Peni, Smith, Keenan, Feeney, Togitasi, Levi (c), Yates, Fitzgibbon, Pondekas, Boyce. Interchange: De Saxe, Petterson-Robati, Taylor, Pakau.
Makelim, Goodall, Fuimaono, Davis, Lavaka, Matterson (c), Dockar-Clay, Junior Mauala, Bush, Tepu-Smith, Moeroa, Newbigging, Markus. Interchange: Aloiai, Muna, Raeli, Kamikamica.
Anytime you score 64 points in a game, you know confidence is going to be high.
That's certainly the case for the Knights' NYC side after they piled on plenty of points against the North Queensland Cowboys last Monday night.
Club assistant coach Rick Stone believes it's the type of form that will make Sunday's clash against the third-placed Eels a real cracker.
"It will be one of the games of the season so far in the NYC," Stone says.
"We have given away too many starts, but they were on against the Cowboys and they’ll have to take that focus and energy to start will against Parramatta.
"They are a big, skillful and athletic team and anyone who is going to the game should get out there early for the NYC because it should be a quality match."
Sam Keenan vs Ryan Matterson
Keenan did an outstanding job replacing the rested Jacob Gagai at five-eighth against the Cowboys last week.
Whether it was showing his class with pass or perfectly timed tackle, the local South Newcastle lad excelled in everything he did.
"Sam went really well," Stone says.
"He has played a role for us a couple of times for our team at certain stages.
"He has been back from a dislocated shoulder for a couple of weeks now and has played some local games.
"The kid has showed that you don’t have to be a superstar half or five-eighth to fit into a team or complement people around you.
"I thought he did that really well against the Cowboys with some smart kicking and passing.
"He also directed and organised the team well, which allowed Jaelen Feeney the chance to do some of the things that he does well."
Chance Peni vs Nathan Davis
When you're the centre partner of emerging star Sione Mata'utia, sometimes it's easy to be the forgotten one.
Just ask Chance Peni, a bloke who provides a heap of spark but doesn't receive the same level of website space as his well-known teammate.
As much as this is the case, Peni doesn't go completely unnoticed according to Stone.
"Chance has really evolved as a footy player.
"He has been with us for a couple of years now and it has taken him a little bit of time to settle down.
"But this year has definitely been his best and most consistent season.
"He has probably still got a few things to learn defensively, but carrying the footy is his real strength.
"He is strong, has got a big reach and is a really powerful ball carrier."
James Taylor vs Tepu-Smith
The Auckland-born bookend has only been at the Knights for just over a month, but he is already considered a mainstay in coach Mick Crawley's side.
Stone has been highly impressed by Taylor's application and effort on game day.
"James really shows that you don’t have to be a monster to be a good footballer," he says.
"He is a terrific competitor, finds the ground well, defends strongly and is aggressive in every thing he does."
Where it will be won:
If last week's impressive win over the Cowboys is a reliable guide, then the Knights should be ready to play against Parramatta on Sunday.
And they'll need to be too, because the third-placed Eels have been one of the standout sides in the NYC competition this season.
Big, strong and athletic, the blue and gold can strike from anywhere on the field and Newcastle will need to be on guard.
That said, the Knights have proven themselves to be more than capable away from home in 2014 and should win if they play to their potential.