NRL preview: Round 22

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS

Date: Saturday August 6
Gates open: 10.30am
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 42
Knights: 20
Bulldogs: 21
Drawn: 1

SQUADS

Knights
1. Jake Mamo, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Brendan Elliot, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Daniel Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Korbin Sims, 12. Pauli Pauli, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Chris Adams, 15. Pat Mata’utia, 16. Jacob Saifiti, 17. Mickey Paea, 18. David Bhana.

Bulldogs
1. Will Hopoate, 2. Brett Morris, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Curtis Rona, 5. Sam Perrett, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Moses Mbye, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. James Graham (c), 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13. David Klemmer. Interchange: 14. Sam Kasiano, 15. Danny Fualalo, 16. Tony Williams, 17. Tim Browne.

TALKING POINTS

Hodkinson up against old friends

It’s been a tough season for Trent Hodkinson as the joint-captain has looked to lead the young red and blues around on the field.

In 18 games he’s come up with nine try assists and eight line break assists as well as 115 kicks. Added to that is only eight handling errors – no mean feat in a position where he has received the ball 851 times.

While Hodkinson will no doubt be looking forward to the prospect of coming up against his old team-mates from the Bulldogs, he is also focused on what the Knights have to do to get the better of them.

“The Bulldogs pack is such a big pack and they have been well known for it,” he said on Tuesday.

“First and foremost we will focus on our ruck defence and do our best there and things will come off the back of that.”

The task will be a little easier for Hodkinson in the halves this weekend as Jarrod Mullen is expected to return from a one-week layoff.

“They thought he was going to be a week or two tops, but indications are at the minute he’s definitely a possibility,” head coach Nathan Brown said of Mullen on Tuesday.

“If everything goes well and he pulls through training, I’d think he’d be a likely starter.”  

Battle of the giants

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about how intimidating the Bulldogs’ forwards are due to their sheer size and strength, but when the forward packs are compared kilogram for kilogram, the Knights can take some heart.

The Knights’ starting forwards considerably outweigh the Bulldogs, with the average weight being 110 kilograms for the red and blues and 105 for the away side.

On the bench the Bulldogs pack some punch though, with the likes of Sam Kasiano and Tony Williams bringing up their overall average to 111 kilograms, while the Knights sit at 110.

So it will be the Bulldogs’ skills with the ball in hand that will challenge the Knights.

“They are quite skilful with their hands and a few of the Manly boys who caused us trouble on the weekend were very direct,” Brown said on Tuesday.

“If we get our attention to detail and technique right, we can make the contest hard for them.”

Bulldogs treasure possession

This year the Bulldogs have been clinical in the way they handle the ball, making less errors than any other team in the competition apart from the Melbourne Storm.

They also rank third in the NRL for set completion, fourth in percentage of possession and second in metres made.

These are all areas that the Knights have struggled with, and it allowed Manly to run out to a big lead last weekend.

“Our ruck defence wasn’t up to first grade standard, to be honest,” a frank Daniel Saifiti said on Wednesday.

“We paid in the end by losing.”

To have a chance on Saturday, the red and blues will have to make every set count.

Women in League

It’s Women in League Round at Hunter Stadium this Saturday, and the Club will be celebrating the contribution of women to the game with a ton of game day promotions and giveaways.

Visit the Pamper Zone with massage therapists to be on hand to help you relax and be spoilt with purple roses that will be given out throughout the ground.

Take a photo with the rose and tag it #WomeninLeague to go in the running for a personally signed Knights jersey, and also keep an eye out for the free limited edition ‘I love NK’ champagne glass coolers at the venue!

THE FINAL SAY

“We have a few late home games, which is nice to finish the season off,” Hodkinson said.

“We need to turn it around for our home fans this week.

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!