It’s back to Hunter Stadium for the Newcastle Knights in Round 10, with the Club so far having one win, one draw and one loss at the venue in 2016.
The team will be desperate to get another two points on Sunday against a Cronulla Sharks team that is sitting equal first on the ladder and has been touted as New South Wales’ strongest premiership contender.
In what will also be Indigenous Round throughout the NRL, the Knights will be featuring the Recognise logo on the back of their jersey.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Date: Sunday May 15
Gates open: 9.30am
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Pat Mata’utia, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Tariq Sims (c), 12. Jacob Saifiti, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Korbin Sims, 16. Jack Stockwell, 17. Mickey Paea, 18. Pauli Pauli.
1. Ben Barba, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Jack Bird, 4. Gerard Beale, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. James Maloney, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Sam Tagataese, 11. Luke Lewis, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Ricky Leutele, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Matt Prior, 17. Joseph Paulo, 23. David Fifita.
Both Saifitis start
Freshly re-signed with the Club until the end of 2018, Daniel and Jacob Saifiti are also set to start their first NRL game together this weekend.
“They have both impressed this year and we know they will only continue to improve,” head coach Nathan Brown said of their re-signing.
Jacob has averaged 62 minutes a game so far this season while Daniel has averaged 74 metres per game – no mean feat for 20-year-old forwards.
Prop Daniel will have to adapt to a higher tempo at the beginning of the game because he only has NRL experience from the bench, but the pair have the physical attributes to make an explosive start.
Lamb earns a second go
19-year-old Brock Lamb looked like he had been doing it for years when he made his debut at five-eighth in Round 9 against the Roosters.
He moved the ball around the park with confidence, and challenged the opposition with his long kicks despite his team being dominated on the turf.
“I have grown up in the area my whole life and it really meant a lot to me to put on the red and blue jersey and debut here,” Lamb told Knights TV.
No doubt his excitement will go up another notch when he gets to play his first game at Hunter Stadium in front of friends and family.
Celebrating Indigenous culture
In Round 10 the game celebrates the significant contributions that our Indigenous communities have made to rugby league.
The likes of Robbie O’Davis, Owen Craigie and Timana Tahu have pulled on the red and blue, and for the second year running the Knights jersey will include the ‘Recognise’ logo, this occasion on the bottom back of the jersey.
“Indigenous culture is something that needs to be recognised a lot more,” Dane Gagai, of Torres Strait heritage, told Knights TV.
“If we can embrace it, then I think it will help this country go a long way.”
Two mates at fullback
Two Indigenous men from Mackay will be fighting it out at fullback on Sunday, with Gagai for the Knights and Ben Barba for the Sharks.
Two years Gagai’s senior, Barba has had a strong start to 2016 with six tries and three try-assists from nine games.
While Gagai averages more metres and tackles, Barba’s sheer attacking form means the Knights will have to be on high alert for the entirety of the game.
THE FINAL SAY
“It's a big challenge and as it stands at the moment, I think we'd all agree Cronulla have got their roster to a stage where they are in a position where they would fancy themselves for a shot at the title,” Brown said in a press conference on Wednesday.