NRL preview: Round 21
MANLY SEA EAGLES v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Sunday July 31
Gates open: 1.30pm
Venue: Brookvale Oval
1. Jake Mamo, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Brendan Elliot, 6. Jack Cogger, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 8. Josh King, 9. Daniel Levi, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. David Bhana, 12. Pauli Pauli, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Chris Adams, 15. Sam Mataora, 16. Daniel Saifiti, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Pat Mata’utia, 19. Mickey Paea.
1. Tom Trbojevic, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Lewis Brown, 4. Brayden Williame, 5. Matt Wright, 6. Jamie Lyon, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Darcy Lussick, 9. Apisai Koroisau, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Nathan Green, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Blake Leary, 15. Josh Starling, 16. Nate Myles, 17. Siosia Vave.
Gagai makes it 100 in red and blue
It’s a big week for Queensland Origin representative Dane Gagai, as he ticks over to 100 first grade games for the Knights and moves back into the centres.
Gagai has played the majority of the season at fullback doing a job for the team, but with Jake Mamo returning from suspension after a strong performance at the back in Round 19, Gagai has the opportunity to move back to his preferred position.
It’s been a frustrating 2016 for Mamo due to recurring injuries, but he is excited at the prospect of finishing the year in strong form playing at fullback.
“It’s been a tough year for myself all round,” he said earlier this week.
“In that game against Melbourne, I have gone back to where I should be and I'm feeling confident coming into this week’s game.”
Back to basics for Knights
The Knights were showing some good signs against the Canberra Raiders and the Melbourne Storm in Rounds 17 and 19 respectively.
Both teams are in the top four, and both teams only just came away with wins.
The men in red and blue were disappointed with their performance in Round 20 against the Cronulla Sharks, however a mixture of injuries and suspensions robbed the team of some of it’s best players.
It will be just as big a challenge this weekend against an in-form Manly, with last week’s Players’ Player Mitch Barnett suspended and Jarrod Mullen back on the sidelines with a minor hamstring injury.
New look forward pack
There’s a fresh look about the Knights’ forward pack this week with Josh King and David Bhana starting.
They have only played a combined 14 NRL games, while bench forwards Daniel and Jacob Saifiti are on 14 and 12 games respectively.
Korbin Sims is the second most experienced player in the group, having played 71 games.
“I’d like to think I can pass on a bit of what I know, even though I’m still working on my game myself,” Sims said earlier this week.
“They are raw and all they are doing is trying to improve their game and they are doing that.”
The Manly forward pack is full of experience with Nate Myles on 219 games, Jamie Buhrer on 118 and Darcy Lussick just making it to 100.
The Knights don’t have the best record at Brookvale Oval, having won only two of the 16 games they’ve played there.
Manly are also fighting desperately for a top eight finish, and have won their last three games on the bounce.
“Manly’s last six weeks, I’ve watched them play a fair bit of footy and think they’re playing good football,” head coach Nathan Brown said earlier in the week.
But if the Knights play the way they did against the Raiders and the Storm, they will have every chance of walking away with the two points.
THE FINAL SAY
“I have played at Manly enough now to know the hostility of the crowd and the chants they are going to bring,” Korbin Sims said of Brookvale Oval.
“That’s football and the kids will learn going down to Manly is always a tough ask.”
August is going to be the biggest month of the year for Knights fans, as we take on FOUR teams at Hunter Stadium. You can get access to all four games for only $50!