NRL preview: Round 25

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Date: Sunday August 28
Gates open: 11.30am
Kick-off: 4.00pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Channel Nine and Fox Sports

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 38
Knights: 25
Rabbitohs: 13

SQUADS

Knights
1. Jake Mamo, 2. Cory Denniss, 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. Jacob Saifiti, 17. Pat Mata’utia.

Rabbitohs
1. Greg Inglis (c), 2. Alex Johnston, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Aaron Gray, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. George Burgess, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. John Sutton, 12. Kyle Turner, 13. Sam Burgess. Interchange: 14. Jason Clark, 15. Jack Gosiewski, 16. Angus Crichton, 17. Nathan Brown, 18. Cameron McInnes, 19. David Tyrrell, 20. Zane Musgrove.

TALKING POINTS

Old Boys Day

It’s the biggest day of the year for the Newcastle Knights as players, officials, Members and fans can celebrate the work done by the founding fathers of the Club since it’s inception in 1988.

“It’s one of the best days of the year, and we all look forward to it,” Sione Mata’utia said of the day.

“The Old Boys are the foundation of our Club and the focus is to get back to what the Old Boys had.”

The Knights have won three of the last five times they’ve played on Old Boys Day, and came desperately close last season when they were beaten 20-18 by a high flying Bulldogs side.

A big crowd always turns out for the fixture and with General Admission tickets just $13 this week, it’s set to be another massive day at Hunter Stadium.   

Farewell Jez

This Sunday’s game will be important for another reason as well, as 36-year-old veteran Jeremy Smith will play the final home game of his illustrious career.

It will be the 213th game of his first grade career, and 74th for the Knights.

He will leave behind a lasting legacy as a seriously tough player and a great person off the field, with tributes from all over the Rugby League world coming in for the New Zealander.

"Jez's best attribute both as a footy player and a person was his loyalty,” Australia and Queensland skipper Cameron Smith said.

“He's someone that you can trust with your life."

Ins and outs

Another week, another swag of forced changes for the Knights.

Nathan Ross (suspended), Will Pearsall (concussion), Mickey Paea (ankle) and Danny Levi (back surgery) are all out of the team in Round 25, with Jarrod Mullen, Sione Mata’utia, Cory Denniss and Pat Mata’utia coming in.

“We have had a fair number of changes this year, which is disappointing,” head coach Nathan Brown said

“We get Sione back which is important and possibly Mullo who is another important player, so I suppose there are some positives there.”

Souths come to town

Despite boasting a star-studded roster, the Rabbitohs sit in 13th place on the ladder going into the penultimate round of 2016.

They have hit some good form in recent weeks, beating the Cronulla Sharks last weekend and thrashing the Warriors 41-22 in Round 23.

They have averaged 50 points against the Knights in their last three games, but all of those have been on their own turf.

With so much to play for this Sunday for the Knights at Hunter Stadium, it should be a tight contest.

“They will be a big, strong side especially with the Burgess boys in the middle and (Greg) Inglis there,” Brendan Elliot said during the week.

“We are going to have to tighten up and hopefully the Saifiti boys can bring what they did on the weekend and we’ll really stick it to them." 

THE FINAL SAY

“I have only played on Old Boys Day once. It was with the Dragons and I play my first one this weekend in the red and blue and I’m looking forward to it," Pete Mata’utia said on Monday.