The Newcastle Knights take on the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening and with both teams struggling for points so far this season, it will be a tightly contested match.
With Jarrod Mullen and Peter Mata’utia injured, head coach Nathan Brown has named an extended squad this week.
The Roosters meanwhile have Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returning, and the Novocastrians will have to hold their own in the middle if they want to come away with the points against one of the best packs in the NRL.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Saturday April 30
Gates open: 3pm
NRL Kick-off: 5.30pm
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Pat Mata’utia, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Will Pearsall, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Tariq Sims (c), 12. Korbin Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. David Bhana, 16. Jacob Saifiti, 17. Pauli Pauli, 18. Brock Lamb, 19. Jack Stockwell, 20. Mickey Paea.
1. Latrell Mitchell, 2. Joe Burgess, 3. Mitchell Aubusson, 4. Blake Ferguson, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Jackson Hastings, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Sam Moa, 9. Jake Friend, 10. Dylan Napa, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Isaac Liu. Interchange: 14. Kane Evans, 15. Eloni Vunakece, 16. Ryan Matterson, 17. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 18. Connor Watson.
Sims at home in second row
Korbin Sims is getting better every week in the second row and put in a powerhouse performance against Manly on ANZAC Day.
With 11 runs, 132 metres, 37 tackles and a line break, he emphatically showed that he has the motor and the skills to take on the position permanently.
Sims also had 95 per cent tackling accuracy, demonstrating that he is more than capable of being an 80 minute player.
Injury toll rises
The Knights now have six players injured who have played in the NRL side this year. Jarrod Mullen’s hamstring injury is a big blow, and halfback Trent Hodkinson will have to take on a more dominant role during his absence.
Head coach Brown has been looking at the positives, and is excited by the prospects of Pearsall, who will be taking Mullen’s place.
“Will has already played one game to date… he is definitely physically capable at the moment,” Brown said in a press conference.
“He’s a good defensive player, is tough and is a good competitor and has a really good kicking game.”
Sam Mataora has been one of the Knights’ best so far this season, averaging 47 minutes a game and scoring two tries.
The Knights will be without his services this weekend due to a suspension picked up in Round 8, but depth in the forwards is strong with several options to take his place.
Pauli Pauli, Jack Stockwell and Mickey Paea are all capable of making a big impact in Mataora’s absence. None of them played last weekend either, so they will be fit and fresh for the contest against a big Roosters pack.
Lamb progressing fast
With 14 tries in 39 NYC appearances, Brock Lamb has been rewarded with a call up to the NRL squad for the first time this week.
“Lamb is in around the money there too so we will make a decision on him later in the week," Brown said.
“He can play fullback as well, so we have a few things to look at there.”
The young Maitland product played in the Auckland Nines earlier in the year, and demonstrated that his composure and game management skills are ready to be tested at the next level.
With a deceptive turn of pace and the ability to throw a pass that not many other players would see, Lamb could test the Roosters if picked.
THE FINAL SAY
"It’s always a hard game against the Roosters especially with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves,” Sione Mata’utia said on Monday.
“With the Roosters getting their players back, that’s obviously pretty crucial for them."