As the Newcastle Knights power into round two after Saturday’s win against the Warriors, assistant coach Craig Sandercock called in head coach Rick Stone to break down this week’s team list.
The Knights have aimed for continuity, naming an unchanged team after a gutsy victory over the Warriors on home turf.
As Stone told the media earlier on Tuesday, Kurt Gidley was again named at fullback, but will have his fitness monitored throughout the week to determine his eventual availability for the trip up North.
“Kurt plays an important role for us, Sione (Mata’utia) deputised and jumped in there really well,” Stone said.
“He’s (Gidley) coming on training pretty well this week and we’re confident he’ll take his place this weekend against the Cowboys."
Sandercock heaped praise on the Knights' right edge, Dane Gagai and Akuila Uate, who added flair and made a significant contribution to the game’s outcome.
“They are terrific those two young boys,” Stone said.
“Gags has started the season really well, he scored a couple of tries and ran for over 200 meters.
“He’s involvement in the game was substantial."
"I think Aku was back near his best, maybe you had a little bit to do with that mate, he seems to play well for you.
“Things are rolling along with Aku really well.
“He’s fit and healthy and seems to be enjoying his footy.
“We all know when Aku is in that frame of mind, he plays his best footy and hopefully it continues along for the rest of the season."
The coaches went on to discuss the Knights up front and how they managed their first challenge of the season against the Warriors.
“I thought Kade (Snowden) did a good job as a starting front rower. It’s a pretty intimidating pack in the Warriors front row,” Stone said.
Meanwhile Sandercock thought the Knights’ bench stood up well and will again be relied on for additional boost against the Cowboys in North Queensland’s typical hot and humid conditions.
“I thought our bench was good and complimented really well, “ Stone agreed.
"Tyler Randell made a really good contribution helping Clydsdale out at hooker, but also playing a little bit for Tyrone (Roberts) when he came off into the head bin and James McManus when he came off with a head injury.
“His contribution was significant.
“Young Jack Stockell was tidy in his first game in Knights colours."
While pleased to kick of the 2015 campaign with a win, Stone says the squad is determine to make improvements this weekend.
“Cowboys are a big challenge up there obviously. They have won 11 of their 12 games last year,” Stone said.
“They weren’t at their best last week against the Roosters so they will have a bit of a sting in their tail for sure.
“Our kicking game we need to improve on and a bit of composure and good ball when we get down there.
“I thought our goal line defence was the most impressive part on the weekend and a bit of steel we showed when Dave Fa’alogo was sent to the sin bin.
“We were in a tough situation and were down a little bit and managed to score a try and hold our defensive line sound, which was a really important and telling part of the game."
Sandercock singled out halfback Johnathan Thurston as one to watch and asked Stone if there is any one else the Knights will be marking in the Cowboys line-up.
“I think (Michael) Morgan is a massive threat at the back and had magnificent season last year and is a bit of a stop gap fullback at the beginning of the year but really showed his worth,” Stone said.
“His speed and his strength were really underestimated and he has a good skillset from being an ex half…he’s definitely a danger.
“They’ve got a lot of big names in their forward pack too.
“With (Jason) Taumalolo, (Matthew) Scott and James Tamou and some of those boys.
“We have a big job ahead of us but are looking forward to it.
“We have a spring in our step after the weekend.”
Note: Assistant coach Danny Buderus was missing in action this week but will be back again next week for his regular appearance in Assistants’ Analysis.