NYC Round 24 preview
Brisbane Broncos v Newcastle Knights
Date: Saturday August 23
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Last time they met:
The last time the NYC Knights and Broncos played saw the teams lock heads in a 34 all draw in Round 7 at Hunter Stadium.
1. Bryce Donovan, 2. Braden Robson, 3. Bradie Smith, 4. Chance Peni, 5. Josh Birch, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Joseph Tapine, 9. Danny Levi (C), 10. Luke Yates, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Harry Pondekas, 13. Joseph Boyce. Interchange: 14. James De Saxe, 15. Pride Petterson-Robati, 16. Tuiala Togitasi, 17. James Taylor.
1. Kodi Nikorima 2. Paul Byrnes 3. Tom Opacic 4. Elijah Alick 5. Jack Tuttle 6. Jayden Nikorima 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Brett Greinke 9. Jayden Berrell 10. Jo Ofanhengaue 11. Alex Barr 12. Brendon McBryde 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange. 14. Duncan Paia'Aua 15. Aaron Rockley 16. Ajuma Adams 17. Brandon Lee.
Despite the two teams levelled in a 34-all draw the last occasion they met at Hunter Stadium, Team Manager Craig Smith says both teams have come a long way since their last match up.
“Although most of the personnel are the same, we’ve learnt to play better football in the back half of the season,” he said.
“They are a different side and we are different side.
“The Broncos, they are a good side this weekend and it means travelling overnight for our Under20s, which is a hard thing to do and keep your mind on footy.”
Coming into Round 24 with two rounds of the season remaining, the Knights sit on top of the table with 36 points, the Broncos just behind on 33.
“Our last two victories have been good victories like 38-0 against Melbourne who are arguably one of the better defensive sides in the competition statistically, and we managed to hold them to nil," Smith said.
“Then last weekend to come back and get away to a good victory to the Warriors, it shows that our boys can respond in certain areas we want them to respond.”
The challenge for the under 20s is to keep improving.
“With sides sitting in the top eight so close to one another, Brisbane are just behind us, so a victory over them could kick us four points clear," Smith added.
“We’ve got our eye looking at the minor premiership while not getting carried away with where we are and knowing that we face two more good sides in the next month in Parramatta and Dragons.
“We’re working a little bit harder this time of the year hoping to get some momentum leading into the semi final.
“We’d like to be there as number one team with everyone chasing us and the group as a whole looks to improve every week.”
Even with the absence of star players Sione Mata’utia (NRL) and Jake Mamo (rested), Smith is confident the team has proved strong enough to step up in their places.
“We have depth in our squad and competition within positions so our boys challenge each other regularly,” he said.
With the rain in Newcastle, the team hasn’t had the ideal preparation, but Smith says the groundwork has been in the past year and the fact the team has sat at number one on the ladder shows it has been consistently the best.
“We take a fair bit of confidence out of that."
Where it will be won:
“It can be won in the middle and lost in the middle,” Smith said.
The side has its eye on the Broncos brothers Kodi and Jayden Nikorima in the halves.
“They both have pace to burn so a broken line in around the middle, where they got us last time, could see them score a couple tries," he added.
“We’ve identified and spoken about their strengths so have prepared our big boys to be up to the challenge.
“It’s pretty much the same every weekend, if you can’t control the middle you get yourself in trouble.”
With both NYC’s regular halves injured, Smith said the Knights went looking in the grand final winning Under 18s squad and have scored in Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger.
“They have been wonderful, they’ve stood up and we’ve won both games,” he said.
“They have driven the team around and have settled in.
“What they bring with them is an energy we haven’t had and have improved our team results as well as our team.
“It shows the challenge is to be at your best every week."
“We’re confident in going up there with a strong side and will be competitive,” Smith said.
“We want nothing less than the two points.”