WESTS TIGERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Round 23, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Saturday August 15, 3pm
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
Referee: Gavin Reynolds
Last time they met:
The Knights beat the Tigers 22-12 at Hunter Stadium in Round 10.
These two side have met 20 times with the spoils divided evenly – ten wins each.
1. Jake Mamo, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Kurt Gidley (c), 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith. Bench: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Joseph Tapine, 16. Chris Houston, 17. Clint Newton, 18. Sam Mataora.
1. James Tedesco, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 4. Tim Simona, 5. Pat Richards, 6. Mitchell Moses, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah (c), 10. Keith Galloway, 11. Curtis Sironen, 12. Dene Halatau, 13. Sauaso Sue. Bench: 14. Kyle Lovett, 15. Jack Buchanan, 16. Ava Seumanufagai, 17. Brenden Santi, 18. Manaia Cherrington.
The Knights and the Tigers have had similar fortunes in 2015, and as such both clubs find themselves fighting for pride this Saturday afternoon.
Without doubt, avoiding the wooden spoon will provide plenty of motivation for the players when they take to the field at Campbelltown Stadium.
“It’s a pretty important game with that in mind, and the Tigers are coming off a couple of wins,” Director of Football Michael Hagan concedes.
“But they’re also coming off a Monday night game which can be difficult.”
Once again last week the Knights only played to their potential for 40 minutes against the Roosters, and once again this week the challenge is to put in an 80 minute performance.
“We can’t start the way we did against the Roosters and expect to be in the game at the end, so I’m sure the players understand that,” Hagan says.
Another big part of the plan is to limit the involvement of strike fullback James Tedesco.
The 22-year-old leads the competition for tackle breaks in 2015 with 131 and averages more than a try every second game over his career.
Whichever side of the field Tedesco occupies in attack, the ball is more than likely to follow.
“He’s had a hand in or scored a high percentage of their tries in the last three or four games,” Hagan explains.
“He’s also part of that very strong spine the Tigers have.”
Robbie Farah, Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses finish off that spine, and will prove a handful for the Knights.
“Moses and Brooks are a part of that plan of the Tigers, and they’re developing and getting stronger all the time,” Hagan says.
“They had an influence on creating some of their team’s opportunities against the Raiders on Monday night and they seem to work well with Robbie Farah.”
While the Tigers have had a relatively settled spine in 2015, the Knights have had 11 players dropping in and out of those positions over 22 games.
Excluding Jarrod Mullen, the Knights will be close to having their strongest spine on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve still got some good players in those positions with Kurt Gidley at six as well as Tyrone Roberts and Adam Clydsdale,” Hagan says.
Gidley in particular hasn’t shied away from the challenges of the last few weeks, and was one of the best players on the field against the Roosters with a try and a try-assist.
“That’s the way he plays… he’s always doing his best,” Hagan says.
“He’s courageous and it’ll be nice to see the team get on board and support him in has last four games at the Club.”
Where it will be won:
From the boot.
“I think the kicking game will be important,” Hagan says.
“Brooks is a left foot kicker and Moses is a right foot kicker, and then you’ve got Farah kicking out of dummy-half.
“So we’re going to have to be good on kick reception.”
The final word:
“Kurt is our best at fullback, but I also need him on that edge just to strengthen those numbers up on that right edge,” interim coach Danny Buderus said at a press conference on Wednesday morning.