NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Round 19, 2014 NRL Premiership
Sunday, July 20 Kick-Off: 2pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Dave Munro
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle charged to a comprehensive 46-16 victory over the Titans at Hunter Stadium in Round 16 last season.
Consistent winger James McManus scored four tries in the big win.
The Knights have won seven of their past 10 clashes against the Titans dating back to the 2008.
Boyd, McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Mullen, Gidley (c), Snowden, Clydsdale, Mason, Scott, Rochow, Smith. Interchange: Roberts, Houston, Cuthbertson, Sims, Fa'alogo, Tapine.
GOLD COAST TITANS
Gordon, Don, Roberts, Takairangi, Faifai Loa, Blair, Mortimer, Bailey, Falloon, Myles (c), Minichiello, Taylor, Carter. Interchange: White, Douglas, Kingston, Kelly, Ioane.
Hunter Stadium will be engulfed by emotion on Sunday as the game unites for inspirational injured Knight Alex McKinnon.
Assistant coach Rick Stone says the entire squad is looking forward to playing in front of Alex and performing strongly for him.
"I think the boys understand there is an occasion on the weekend and it is a special game for Alex and his family," Stone says.
"It’s also a great chance for the Newcastle public to come out and thank and support Alex. They’ll be ready for it, as long as they can keep their emotions in check.
"All the boys have had great contact with Alex since the injury in early March, but this is a chance for the Newcastle and Hunter people to come out and see how he is going.
"Alex can also thank them too, because he has received fantastic support since the incident."
On top of honouring McKinnon in style on Sunday, Stone insists the Knights are also keen to build on their recent momentum against the Titans.
"We’ve been building since our win against North Queensland," he says.
"We then had a tough win against Parramatta and coming from behind to round up 18 points on the weekend against the Sharks, will definitely build some confidence.
"The Titans have had a tough little bit, but their performance against South Sydney a couple of weeks ago was very impressive.
"They played real tough on that occasion. They weren’t at their best against Canberra last week, but they have got some dangerous players and they are battling hard to get into the top eight.
"We understand every NRL game you have to compete and this will be no different."
Kurt Gidley vs Daniel Mortimer
Gidley has excelled at halfback since moving there three weeks ago.
Stone believes the change of position has given the skipper more freedom to play his natural game.
"Kurt is enjoying that flexibility of getting out and running the ball at halfback and getting his hands on the ball," he explains.
"He is also bobbing up all over the field and it’s working well with his offsider Jarrod Mullen on the other side of the field.
"So there is good flexibility between the two and also a good understanding with the nine Adam Clydsdale and also Tyrone Roberts and Darius Boyd.
"There is a good little structure through the middle with those guys and I’m sure Kurt is enjoying is newfound opportunity to put his stamp on the game."
Kade Snowden vs Luke Bailey
As good as the Club's backs have been in the past three weeks, they couldn't do their job without the support of the big men up front.
Stone nominates local lad Snowden as one of the team's standout performers.
"Snowey was terrific last week against the Sharks," he beams.
"He had big metres, tough carries and really took the juice out of the middle of the Sharks pack and you can expect that to continue against the Titans on Sunday."
Willie Mason vs Nate Myles
Mason may be in the latter stages of his career, but the veteran bookend is still competing with the best.
You can expect this trend to continue against the Titans on Sunday when he lines up opposite Test and Origin star Nate Myles.
"I thought Willie defended really well last week against the Sharks given he had to play a fair bit of time," Stone says.
"He has been very consistent for us this season with plenty of metres and I'm looking forward to seeing him continue that on the weekend."
Where it will be won:
The opening 20 minutes will be crucial for both sides.
How Newcastle handles all the emotion around Alex McKinnon's special day will go a long way to deciding this match.
If the Knights can harness their feelings and fire in the initial stages like they did against the Sharks back in round 4, then they are every chance of winning this one comfortably on home turf.
Buy your ticket to the RiseForAlex game HERE.