NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PARRAMATTA EELS
Round 7, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Sunday, April 19
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Referee: Adam Devcich
Last time they met:
The Knights thrashed the Eels 42-12 in the penultimate fixture of last season, Chanel Mata’utia bagging a hat-trick and Sione a brace.
The Knights have won 26 of their 46 matches against the Eels, and at Hunter Stadium they have won 17 of 23.
1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. James McManus, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Chris Houston, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. David Fa’alogo, 16. Joseph Tapine, 17. Jack Stockwell, 18. Sione Mata’utia.
1. Will Hopoate, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. John Folau, 5. Reece Robinson, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Chris Sandow, 8. Darcy Lussick, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Tim Mannah, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. David Gower, 13. Anthony Watmough. Interchange: 14. Isaac De Gois, 15. Joseph Paulo, 16. Danny Wicks, 17. Peni Terepo, 18. Richie Fa’aoso.
While the Knights started 2015 in fine form, in the last two weeks they’ve slipped up in weather that can only be described as challenging.
Considering there is a high likelihood of rain again this Sunday afternoon, the men in red and blue will be looking to draw a line in the sand when it comes to wet weather performances.
“I think we’re at the point where we’ve just got to have the right mindset around the game, it doesn’t matter where it’s being played or what the conditions are,” Director of Football Michael Hagan said.
“The level of effort and energy the team brings is the first thing we need to sort out.”
The Knights will be pleased they have an eight-day turnaround, considering how below par their performance against Cronulla was.
Against the Sharks they made 15 errors and completed only 18 of their 31 sets, which is well below their 2015 standards with averages of 11 errors per game and 77 per cent set completion.
The coaching staff has packed in plenty of skills sessions this week that should result in a sharper performance on Sunday.
“Given we’ve had a longer turnaround we’ve had the time to regroup and sort a few things out, which will be the main thing for the coaches and the team,” Hagan explains.
“Some of the errors we came up with last week were unacceptable for NRL standard, and if you’re hoping to build some pressure and generate some points, you need to improve your execution of the basic things.”
The men in red and blue put in a solid shift against the Eels in their last fixture, coming away with a 42-12 win that effectively knocked the Parramatta club out of contention for a finals spot.
Hagan believes that won’t have any bearing on this match though, drawing comparisons between how effectively the Knights beat the Dragons last year, only to come unstuck against them this season.
“A bit like the Saints game, it was the back end of last year and maybe the energy wasn’t quite there,” he says.
“It’s the start of the season, quite a bit is up for grabs and the Eels have had a couple of big losses, as have we, so I don’t think there’ll be so many points up for offer.”
While the spine of the Sharks in Gallen, Ennis and Holmes did considerable damage to the Knights last week, Hagan believes that the Eels pose a similar danger through the middle.
“I think their more experienced players will be dangerous…Anthony Watmough is a guy that has come in with a big reputation and will probably be the one that tries to get things going in the middle for them,” he enthuses.
Halfback Chris Sandow has the potential to be an X-factor with his clever kicking game and spontaneous plays.
“A bloke like Sandow, who has that unpredictable part to his game, if he comes up with the right plays he’s certainly dangerous,” Hagan says.
And then there’s Will Hopoate at the back, who has scored two tries in his six appearances so far this season.
While some players have struggled for form in recent weeks, Hagan believes strong competition from the NSW Cup ranks will ensure everybody is kept on their toes.
“NSW Cup have had their share of challenges, and they’ve been coming up with similar errors in critical times, but they do have some players in their team that are playing consistently pretty well,” Hagan says.
“Players like Pat Mata’utia, Jake Mamo and Pat Vaivai have been pretty strong, and these are things that the coaches will take under consideration.”
Where it will be won:
“The composure of our kicking game and the selections that the halves make in attack will be crucial,” Hagan says.
“I like Corey Norman and he’s been a part of the Eels for awhile now after coming down from the Broncos.
“He’s certainly been playing very well in a team that hasn’t been winning games, so I think he’s a guy that’s got plenty of ability.”
“I guess it’s just about getting in this week and making sure we are doing our extras and just forget about those last two games,” the recently re-signed Dane Gagai said at a press conference on Tuesday morning.