This weekend the Newcastle Knights take on the Canberra Raiders in what will be their first home game of the 2016 season.
When the red and blues run out on Saturday it will have been 202 days since Hunter Stadium last saw NRL football.
Needless to say the players are excited to perform in front of a home crowd, and are hungry to get their first win of the season.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Date: Saturday March 19
Gates open: 12.30pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
1. Jaelen Feeney, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Pat Mata’utia, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Tyler Randell, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Jacob Saifiti, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Sione Mata’utia, 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Pauli Pauli.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Brenko Lee, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Lachlan Croker, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Shannon Boyd, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Shaun Fensom. Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste, 15. Iosia Soliola, 16. Paul Vaughan, 17. Jeff Lima.
Jarrod Mullen plays his 200th NRL game
Mullen has been playing first grade for 11 years now, and when he takes to the field on Saturday it will be his 200th NRL appearance.
It is a remarkable feat for a player that is still only 28, but he will be more focused on getting the points than anything else.
“200 is a big one, but I’d rather get a win first,” the five-eighth said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“The people from Newcastle, they need a win too…it’s a big occasion for all of us to play in front of our family and friends for the first time this year.”
Mullen’s running game last weekend against the Rabbitohs was strong, with seven runs totalling 65 metres. He also made seven kicks, with two of those forcing repeat sets.
This weekend he will be hoping to lead his team to victory.
Sione Mata’utia returns to first grade
Mata'utia has worked hard during the pre-season to improve his game, and having served a one week suspension in Round 1 and played NYC in Round 2, he will be raring to go on Saturday.
In his 40 minutes of football last weekend he scored a try, picked up a try assist and ran for 103 metres.
Mata’utia is particularly excited to play with older brother Pat this weekend.
“It’s going to be good. I haven’t played with Pat since under 20s,” Mata’utia said on Wednesday.
“I’m glad to see him finally get his shot. He’s one of the brothers I really wanted to see play first grade.”
Eight local juniors in Play NRL Round
In Play NRL Round it is fitting that the Knights will be fielding eight juniors from Newcastle, the Hunter and the Central Coast.
Robbie Rochow (East Maitland Griffins), Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Sione and Pat Mata’utia (Souths Newcastle), Jacob and Daniel Saifiti (Entrance Tigers), Tyler Randell (Aberdeen Tigers) and Jarrod Mullen (Wests Newcastle) have all been named to play.
For a Club that has always prided itself on it’s local talent this weekend will be a great showcase for the talent this region can produce.
Knights aim for 11,000 Members on game day
With the number of Members sitting at approximately 10,900 at the time of writing, the Club is eager to reach 11,000 by game day.
There are a range of Membership options to suit every Knights fans. Click here to view Knights Membership packages.
Raiders one of the form sides in competition
The Canberra Raiders are one of only six team to have won both of it’s games in the early stages of this season.
While spine players Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer and Adam Clydsdale are injured, the green machine have still scraped through with wins against the Panthers and Roosters thanks to a never-say-die attitude.
Their forward pack is formidable and they have a slew of back line stars that can trouble any team.
THE FINAL SAY
“We are a work in progress team and hopefully we can get a fair bit of improvement on the weekend," head coach Nathan Brown said on Tuesday.
"We have to work on the fundamentals of the game and learn how to fight when we are in tough situations.”