NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Round 15, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Sunday June 21, 2pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Referee: Gavin Badger
Last time they met:
The Knights never really clicked into gear on a very wet night at Remondis Stadium in Round 6 when they lost 22-6.
The Knights are clear winners here, with the Knights holding 27 victories to the Sharks’ 17. The red and blues have also won 14 of their 20 games against the Sharks at Hunter Stadium.
1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. James McManus, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Carlos Tuimavave, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Chris Houston. Bench: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Robbie Rochow, 16. Joseph Tapine, 17. Pat Vaivai.
1. Michael Gordon, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Gerard Beale, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Jack Bird, 7. Jeff Robson, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Luke Lewis, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen (c). Bench: 14. Jayson Bukuya, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. David Fifita, 17. Sam Tagataese.
More than half a season of football has already been played in 2015 and the Knights are still desperately searching for the winning form that came so easily early on in the season.
While they played a good game against the Warriors in Round 12, the match against the Canberra Raiders in Round 13 was disappointing.
Coming out of the bye, the fixture against the Sharks at Hunter Stadium looms as a big opportunity to turn things around and make a statement.
While the Sharks have also been inconsistent in 2015, they have managed to win three of their last five games, claiming big scalps against the Rabbitohs and Roosters in the process.
That is something the Knights have to be wary of, according to Director of Football Michael Hagan.
“It just shows what they’re capable of against a quality team like that,” he says.
“They’re capable of some fairly tough, grinding footy and that makes it a tough proposition for us.”
While the Knights’ biggest asset is their back line, for the Sharks it is definitely their forward pack.
“They have Andrew Fifita in the front row, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham in the back row and Michael Ennis of course, who has plenty of experience,” Hagan explains.
Talisman Paul Gallen also usually has a big role up front, but that may not be the case this weekend.
“I’m hearing that Paul Gallen may have picked up a bit of a rib injury in a very tough Origin game at the MCG, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t play,” Hagan explains.
While Gallen could be out, Knights' Robbie Rochow is definitely in.
The young second rower is set to make a successful return from a troubling back injury that has ruled him out since Round 4.
“That’s really important for us, but it will be a test for him coming back from such a serious injury,” Hagan says.
“I don’t know how many minutes he’ll get off the bench but it will probably take him a couple of weeks to get back to starting for us.”
There has also been another re-shuffle in the backline, with Kurt Gidley returning to his favoured fullback position, Dane Gagai doing likewise in the centres and Tyrone Roberts returning from injury to reclaim the halfback position.
“It’s exciting to see Sione and Dane in the centres together for the first time, so that’s something we can look forward to,” Hagan enthuses.
Gagai, like Beau Scott, Korbin and Tariq Sims, will be returning from Origin camp and Hagan expects that having immersed themselves in that environment will add something to their games.
Hagan, who works as an assistant coach for the Queensland Maroons, saw that firsthand during the week.
“I think Dane and Korbin will be very positive after their week around the Queensland team, Tariq Sims has been in a similar scenario at the Blues.
“They’ve been around the best players in the game and have learned more about the preparation side of things.
“They’re all trying to force their way into those sides so they’ve got this weekend and another game to do that for Origin Three.”
Where it will be won:
In the forwards and on the boot.
“I think up front will be very important,” Hagan says.
“Their forward pack is their real strength and our kicking game is something else that we need to be better at.”
“They always have a strong forward pack and hopefully we can keep the ball in play and we can get over the top of their forwards,” returning forward Robbie Rochow said in an interview on Thursday.