NRL preview: Round 24
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Date: Saturday August 20
Gates open: 10.30am
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
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. Tyler Randell, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Josh King, 15. Daniel Saifiti, 16. Pauli Pauli, 17. Mickey Paea, 18. Jacob Saifiti, 19. Pat Mata’utia.
1. David Mead, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Josh Hoffman, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Nene MacDonald, 6. Jarryd Hayne, 7. Ash Taylor, 8. Luke Douglas, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Ryan James (c), 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Chris McQueen, 13. Greg Bird. Interchange: 14. David Shillington, 15. Ryan Simpkins, 16. Agnatius Paasi, 17. Nathan Friend (c), 18. Leivaha Pulu.
Smith and Ross return
There’s some good news for the Knights heading into Round 24 with the return of the influential Jeremy Smith and Nathan Ross.
Both were sorely missed against the Panthers last weekend, and Smith’s 211 games of NRL experience in the middle third will surely add some rigidity to the Knights’ defence.
“To see him actually get on the field sometimes and train, and to be able to play with his body, I think our kids can take a lot out of it,” head coach Nathan Brown said on Wednesday.
“He’s been helping out our middle third in attack a lot lately, with a fair bit of passing through the middle and second phase play.”
Ross meanwhile is the Club’s leading try scorer in 2016 with seven tries, and has been named to start on the wing after missing one week due to a hamstring injury.
Pete Mata’utia reaches 50
It’s a big week for the eldest Mata’utia brother, as the 25-year-old reaches 50 games in the NRL.
A Raymond Terrace junior, Mata’utia has been named to start in the centres and will reunite with Ross.
The pair get along well both on and off the field, and in previous weeks have gelled well in defence to shut out teams.
This week they line up against the right side pairing of Nene MacDonald and Josh Hoffman, who have scored a combined 17 tries in 2016.
Hayne comes to town
It will be Jarryd Hayne’s third game back in the NRL in Round 24 as the excitement machine comes to Hunter Stadium.
So far his numbers for the Titans have been decent, with one try assist, three tackle breaks and that crucial field goal against the Tigers last weekend to win the game.
“Hayne is the icing on the cake (for the Titans), so we would expect him to have some impact on the game but obviously from our point of view we don’t want too much impact,” Brown said of the marquee signing.
“But the Gold Coast aren’t where they are because of Jarryd Hayne, they’re there because of Greg Bird, David Shillington, Chris McQueen and the rest.”
The Titans have a formidable forward pack, and it boasts the second highest completion rate in the competition at 79 per cent.
While they break out of fewer tackles than any other side in the NRL, they do grind their opponents down with clinical use of possession.
Red and blue faithful stick by their team
It was another strong showing from fans last weekend, as 13,771 fans turned out for a team that is going through a very tough season.
It gives the players a massive lift, as Korbin Sims, Brendan Elliot and Sione Mata’utia all stated in the sheds after the match last weekend.
“Credit goes out to Newcastle, they are sticking by us in a very tough time,” Sims said.
“We just have to keep trying to prove to them that we are a first grade side and that we can match it.”
Brown spoke along similar lines in his midweek press conference.
“I think everyone would agree that the fans have really stood solid by the group this year off the back of so many losses in a row,” he said.
With only two home games left this season - including Old Boys Day next Sunday - the Club is hoping to finish the season on a high with strong attendances. You can buy your tickets HERE.
THE FINAL SAY
“It will be great for him to finish off his career with a couple of home games,” Brown said of veteran lock Smith.
“With this week and Old Boys Day next week, it will be two good games for him to go out on, so hopefully his body is as good as we can get it at this stage.”