NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Round 19, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Saturday July 18, 5.30pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Referee: Gavin Badger
Last time they met:
The Knights edged the Titans 20-18 in Round 3 at Cbus Stadium when Jeremy Smith scored the match winning try.
These two sides have only come up against one another 13 times, but the Knights have won eight of those encounters.
1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. James McManus, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Tyler Randell, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith. Bench: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Dave Fa’alogo, 16. Joseph Tapine, 17. Sam Mataora, 18. Paterika Vaivai.
1. David Mead, 2. Anthony Don, 3. James Roberts, 4. Nene Macdonald, 5. Kevin Gordon, 6. Josh Hoffman, 7. Daniel Mortimer, 8. Luke Douglas, 9. Beau Falloon, 10. Nate Myles (c), 11. Ryan James, 12. Dave Taylor, 13. Greg Bird. Bench: 14. Agnatius Paasi, 15. Eddy Pettybourne, 16. Nathaniel Peteru, 17. Chad Redman, 18. Ben Ridge.
Round 19 is Heritage Round and while the Newcastle Knights has a relatively short past, there will still be plenty of great history for the red and blues to draw inspiration from come Saturday night.
“I think everyone enjoys playing in that kit from our first year,” Director of Football Michael Hagan says.
“That might generate some emotion for the team that they will need against the Titans in order to get back on track.”
The Knights have been a mixed bag in the last few weeks, attacking brilliantly in patches only to succumb to defensive lapses that have cost them games.
The first quarter of games has been a concern in particular.
“You can’t win a game in the first 20 minutes, but you can certainly lose one,” Hagan says.
“We learnt that the hard way in the last couple of weeks, and you’d like to think with a more settled line-up with Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith starting we have enough experience to get that done.”
The early lapses do in part come down to the relative youth of the team in some areas.
When putting Sione Mata’utia, Danny Levi, Joe Tapine and Pat Vaivai together, the average age is 20.
Any young player will inevitably make mistakes in the high-pressure environment of the NRL, but short-term pain will result in long-term gain as they mature in the competition.
“It’s all part of their education,” Hagan acknowledges.
“We need to learn those lessons a bit quicker, but we also need to keep in mind that Sione’s only 19, Danny Levi is coming into only his fourth game now and Joe Tapine got through 80 minutes last week.
“So there are some positives for our team to hang their hat on.”
On the other end of the spectrum are Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts, who have a combined total of 285 appearances at the Club.
After both players returned from prolonged stints on the sidelines last week they gradually grew into the game to take control.
The pair will be better this week for that run down in Canberra.
“Our first-choice halves are back in the side and our forward pack is certainly a lot stronger than it has been for four or five weeks,” Hagan says.
“It was always going to take some time for three or four players just coming back in to get their timing and confidence back.
“Another week of training will see a better outcome there, including from Jarrod and Tyrone.
“Hopefully they can take control and get their kicking games in order and get the team in the grind a bit more.”
That said, the Titans will also be welcoming back a player with plenty of experience.
Forward Greg Bird will be returning from an eight week suspension keen to make up for lost time.
“That’s going to boost their team, but it’s also going to be a fair ask for him after he’s missed so much footy,” Hagan says.
“It’s always hard to get your timing and your match fitness back in one game, but I guess he’ll be keen to tear in and get the Titans off to a good start.”
Where it will be won:
Defence in the middle.
The Titans have several wrecking balls in Nate Myles and David Taylor.
The Knights will have to be wary of them battering their way through the middle of the field.
“I think we need to be much stronger in the middle third from the start,” Hagan acknowledges.
“So it all starts with the defence and hopefully we can get that a lot stronger for the first 20 or 30 minutes of the game.”
The Final Word:
“I think we need to start how we are finishing games, because we have been finishing pretty well," Tyler Randell said in a press conference on Wednesday.