NRL preview: Round 14
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Date: Saturday June 11
Gates open: 10.30am
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Cory Denniss, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Nathan Ross, 5. Jake Mamo, 6. Jack Cogger, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Tariq Sims, 12. Pauli Pauli, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Korbin Sims, 16. Jacob Saifiti, 17. Mickey Paea, 19. Josh King, 20. Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
1. Tuimoala Lolohea, 2. David Fusitua, 3. Blake Ayshford, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Manu Vatuvei, 6. Thomas Leuluai, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 9. Isaac Luke, 10. Ben Matulino, 11. Bodene Thompson, 12. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14. Nathaniel Roache, 15. Sam Lisone, 16. Albert Vete, 17. Charlie Gubb.
Saifiti twins reunited
Second rower Jacob Saifiti returns to the side after sitting out for three weeks with a wrist injury.
Brother Daniel has been in the form of his life during that time, and Jacob will no doubt be keen to emulate his twin.
“He has put me under a bit of pressure to come back and play well, but I’m really proud of him and he’s put our name on the map,” Jacob said in an interview this week.
While Daniel has averaged 174 metres and 20 tackles in his last three games, Jacob arguably started the season stronger with more minutes and metres.
Jacob has been named to come off the bench, but will be hoping to get some game time when his brother is still on the field.
“When we are on the field together we always feed off each other’s energy,” he said.
“If he’s playing good normally we are both playing good."
Battle of the halfbacks
Both the Knights and the Warriors will boast highly experienced halfbacks on Saturday, with Trent Hodkinson having played 128 games and Shaun Johnson 113.
While Johnson scores more tries, Hodkinson’s ability to set up a try and then add the two points cannot be underestimated.
In his 12 matches so far this season, Hodkinson has set up seven four-pointers and had a kicking accuracy of 86%.
The 2016 recruit has also been an asset in defence, with a tackling accuracy of 85% and less than one error a game.
Warriors' Hunter record
While the red and blues are going through some tough times, the team can take inspiration from the fact that the Warriors haven’t won at Hunter Stadium for five years running.
The New Zealanders will be no easy-beats, but with the backing of a passionate home crowd and the right defensive mindset, the Knights can go into the game with confidence.
“I think we all know the Warriors, when they are playing well they are a very good side,” head coach Nathan Brown said in a press conference on Tuesday.
“We are at home which is a good spot to play, but especially when you are having a tough year.”
Beanies for a good cause
In Round 14 the Knights’ match day partner is the Mark Hughes Foundation and everyone attending the game is encouraged to bring along a beanie to help tackle brain cancer.
“We’re so excited to be partnering again with the Newcastle Knights,” former Knight and two-time premiership winner Mark Hughes said.
“We’d just love a sea of beanies across the stadium. You can bring your own beanie, or you can purchase a Mark Hughes Foundation beanie at the ground.”
And if you think you can kick like Hodkinson, there will also be an opportunity for one lucky attendee to kick for goal from 50 metres out and share a $50,000 prize pool with the Mark Hughes Foundation.
You can read more about the competition HERE.
THE FINAL SAY
“I’m sure we will get to know them a lot closer in the next couple of days as they get around and meet the boys,” Korbin Sims said of new recruits Mitch Barnett and Brendan Elliot.
You can read more about the new signings HERE.