Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights
Date: Friday March 24
Venue: Pepper Stadium
1. Matt Cooper, 2. Mitch Andrews 3. Brayden Musgrove, 4. Heath Gibbs, 5. Dean Kouka-Smith, 6. Jack Johns, 7. Hayden Loughrey, 8. Cameron King, 9. Nash Birch, 10. Viko Puliuvea, 11. Dylan Clark, 12. Sam McIntyre, 13. Zac Hosking. Interchange: 14. Brendan O’Hagan, 15. Will Davies, 16. Jayden Butterfield, 17. Pasami Saulo, 18. Eddy Tuilotolava, 19. Lachlan Farr, 20. Keanu Dawson, 21. Kye Hopwood, 22. Kainoa Gudgeon, 23. Jayden Hocking.
1. Caleb Aekins, 2. Brian Too, 3. Richie Munchow, 4. Sam Martin-Savage, 5. Daniel Brown, 6. Dean Blore, 7. Jarome Luai, 8. Tevita Mapapalangi, 9. Wayde Egan, 10. Stefano Hala, 11. Reed Izzard, 12. Vondel Williams-Liolevave, 13. Liam Martin. Interchange: 14. Mitch Kenny, 15. Carl Winterstein, 16. Jake Brennan, 17. Tom Skinner, 18. Mitch Revell, 19. Meni Luke, 20. Siailaoa Faafua, 21. Mose Feilo, 22. James Conroy, 23. Kyle Smith.
NYC Newcastle Knights coach Todd Lowrie has been forced to do a reshuffle of his back row with Kurtis Dark out due to a shoulder injury.
Dylan Clark has come off the bench, where he’s been for the last two weeks, to get his chance in the starting pack.
Nash Birch replaces Tom Starling at hooker, with the captain named in Reserve Grade.
“Birch played a few games for us last year and I think he’ll do a good job for us,” said Lowrie.
“He’s a good player, while it is a good reward for Tom (Starling) for a couple of good performances, to go up to reserve grade.”
Dean Kouka-Smith will again get to start on the wing as Kainoa Gudgeon retains his spot in Reserve Grade.
“Dean can find the try line,” added Lowrie.
“He’s got a couple of good tries for us and he scored one or two for us in the first round so he certainly knows how to find the try line and he gets to keep his spot.”
The Under 20s side will also see the return of Jayden Butterfield and Pasami Saulo, who have been named on the bench.
“Jayden cut his hand at work so he had a couple of weeks off and Pasami had concussion a couple of weeks ago,” commented Lowrie.
“They’re both back and in full training and ready to go so they deserve to be put back in the team,”
While young half Brendan O’Hagan has been given the number 14 jersey and will get to make his first NYC appearance for the season.
“Brendan has been in our junior system for a number of years, he played SG Ball for us and he joined our squad last year,” Lowrie said.
“He’ll get our first game for us off the bench so a good opportunity for him to come and show us what he can do.”
The NYC coach maintains while they’ve had a couple of wins already this season, there’s still a fair bit to improve on.
“To the boys’ own acknowledgements, their performances haven’t been great for the last couple of weeks so they will be looking to improve on defence mainly,” commented Lowrie.
“Penrith have been the best team in the 20s in the last three or four years, if not more, so the boys are fully aware of the challenge and there’s no better chance to see where we’re at than to play Penrith.”
Where it will be won
Lowrie feels the score line will be reflected by how well each side defends.
“I think both teams attack really well,” said Lowrie.
“We’ve shown that at times throughout the season already so I think we need to calm down in defence.
“The team that defends better for the whole game will come out on top.”