NRL preview: Round 26
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Saturday September 3
Gates open: 10.30am
Venue: Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
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. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Tyler Randell, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Dylan Phythian, 15. Pat Mata’utia, 16. Korbin Sims, 17. Sam Mataora, 18. Josh King, 19. Jaelen Feeney.
1. Josh Dugan, 2. Kurt Mann, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Taane Milne, 5. Jason Nightingale, 6. Gareth Widdop (c), 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Leeson Ah Mau, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Mike Cooper, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Ben Creagh (c), 13. Jack de Belin. Interchange: 14. Joel Thompson, 15. Will Matthews, 16. Jacob Host, 17. Jake Marketo, 19. Siliva Havili, 20. Tim Lafai, 21. Luciano Leilua.
Final match of 2016
It’s been a tough slog for the Knights at times in 2016, but there is plenty to play for in the final match of the season this Saturday with a win sure to provide a massive boost for the young squad moving forward.
“When you come into pre-season and your last memory is a hard fought win, it will maybe let you dig into yourself a little more,” the returning Nathan Ross explained.
Mitch Barnett agreed, saying, “I’d love nothing more than a win, and just for our confidence going into the preseason it would be really good.”
Saifitis team up in front row
It’s remarkable to think how far the Saifiti twins have come this season.
Just six months ago Daniel and Jacob were surprise inclusions in Nathan Brown’s Round 1 team, but have gone on to play 19 and 17 games respectively.
This weekend they will conclude the season with starting spots in the front row after highly impressive displays against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Round 25.
While there are still inconsistencies in their games that naturally come with youth, they have the potential get the Knights off to a very strong start against the Dragons.
Another rookie in Dylan Phythian will also be lining up in the number 14 jersey after his great debut last weekend.
"Dylan earned the right to stay in the team and we'd hope he'd go out there and improve this weekend," Brown said.
Knights back in hi-vis
The red and blues will be hi-vis orange on Saturday as part of the Club’s partnership with NSW Mining.
The special playing strip has worked wonders for the team on the field in the past as well, as the Knights picked up their solitary win of the season against the Wests Tigers in Round 6.
Both Ross and Josh King (18th man) are among current playing group to find employment in the mining industry, and they will be proud to represent the proud traditions of the sector if they run out at Jubilee Oval.
“It’s an industry that supported me when I was chasing my goal to become a footballer, so I hold it close to me," Ross said.
Dragons determined to finish difficult season on a high
The Knights have had plenty of injury struggles this year, and can sympathise with the Dragons as they head into the final match of the season.
This weekend they will be without regular first graders Russell Packer, Tyson Frizell and Tariq Sims, amongst others.
The Knights meanwhile have been improving in the injury department, although they will still go into this game without Mickey Paea, Robbie Rochow and Danny Levi.
“We could potentially be fielding the strongest team we’ve been able to field this year, and I’m very confident in our boys,” Ross said.
The Dragons have only won two games out of their last eight, and one of those was against the Knights in Round 16.
Captains challenge trial
In a first for the NRL, a 'captains challenge' will be trialled at the match this weekend and it's success could have a big influence on how the bunker is used in seasons to come.
Under the trial rules, each captain will be allowed to challenge the referee’s decision in relation to tries only.
The referee will be required to make a decision on the field and it will only be reviewed by the bunker if a challenge is made.
Each team will be allowed one incorrect challenge per half but there will be no limit on how many times a captain can contest a ruling by the match officials if he continues to be proven right.
An additional challenge will be allowed in the final five minutes of the game and in golden point.
THE FINAL SAY
“We’ve just been trying to improve towards the end of the year,” forward Korbin Sims said in his press conference on Wednesday.
“If we can cap it off with a win that would be great.”