NRL Preview: Round 5

It’s another away game for the Knights this weekend as they take on the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

The team has been in camp in the Victorian capital this week after flying direct from Auckland, due to a five-day turnaround.

The Storm started their season on fire with three wins, but last week fell to the Cronulla Sharks away from home in a performance that was unlike a Storm performance.

MELBOURNE STORM v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Date: Saturday April 2
Gates open: 12.30pm
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: AAMI Park
Broadcast: Fox Sports

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 34
Knights: 15
Warriors: 19

SQUADS

Newcastle
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Pat Mata’utia, 5. Cory Denniss, 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. Mickey Paea, 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 17. Pauli Pauli.

Melbourne
1. Cameron Munster, 2. Young Tonumaipea, 3. William Chambers, 4. Ben Hampton, 5. Marika Koroibete*, 6. Blake Green, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Jordan McClean, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14. Kenny Bromwich, 15. Tim Glasby, 16. Felise Kaufusi, 17. Christian Welch.

*Note: Marika Koroibete accepted an early guilty plea for a tripping charge on Wednesday however the

Melbourne Storm has not yet announced his replacement.

TALKING POINTS

The travel schedule

By the time the Knights take on the Storm on Saturday night, the team will have been on the road for eight days. On Saturday, it will have been five days since the red and blues were battling it out against the Warriors.

While the five-day turnaround is a hot topic at the moment, head coach Nathan Brown hopes to turn the two games on the road into a positive experience for his young side.

“The five-day turnaround is not something we have spoken about as a group, we are a side that are looking to make some real improvements and we have to limit the excuses why we shouldn’t do well,” he said from Melbourne this week.

"Hopefully the young guys can gain a lot from this experience."

Brown expecting an improved performance

Brown is looking for a more consistent performance from his team this weekend after a mixed bag against the Warriors.

While there was plenty of effort, too many times the Knights conceded errors and penalties that directly led to tries being conceded.

“As a whole the guys are in good spirits and we expect an improved performance this weekend,” Brown told Knights TV at Collingwood’s Holden Centre on Wednesday.

Trent Hodkinson 10 from 10

Hodkinson has been in wonderful form from the kicking tee so far this season, kicking ten from ten.

Plenty have been from difficult angles as well, and the 2016 recruit never looks like he is going to miss.

He will again need to be at his best against the Storm, as points will no doubt be at a premium.

Mataora reaping the rewards

Against the Warriors on Monday Sam Mataora collected his second Players’ Player award from his last three games.

His hard work during the off-season is paying off on the field with the Samoan international having already made 114 tackles. He’s only missed one as well, meaning Mataora has one of the best tackle accuracy records in the NRL this season.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge this weekend,” Mataora told newcastleknights.com.au on Thursday.

“Melbourne have a big forward pack so we need to get on top of them, and stick it out for the 80 minutes.”

Freshening up the squad

On Tuesday Sione Mata’utia, Daniel Saifiti, Akuila Uate, Jack Stockwell and Will Pearsall flew down to Melbourne to link up with the squad.

While Mata’utia has been named to play after serving his one game suspension, there could be some other late selection changes.

“A number of players will undergo a fitness test on Friday morning and then we will have some idea of what our team will look like,” Brown said in an interview.

Whoever plays from the five additions will not be backing up from a four day turnaround, so they will no doubt bring fresh energy and enthusiasm.

THE FINAL SAY

“Melbourne in Melbourne has to be one of the toughest road trips, they are a side that don’t generally give much away,” Brown told Knights TV on Wednesday.

“It is a good opportunity for us to take on one of the better teams in the competition.”