Match preview: Harold Matts
Newcastle Knights v Canberra Raiders
Venue: UOW Jubilee Oval
Date: Saturday April 29
1. Bradman Best, 2. Maile J Townsend, 3. Darcy Heaney, 4. Cooper Jenkins, 5. Patrick Achurch, 6. Max Buderus, 7. Kobe Davies, 8. Thomas Affleck, 9. Mitch Black, 10. Christian Ma’anaima, 11. Riley Meyn, 12. Harry Croker, 13. Jaron Purcell. Interchange: 14. Ryan Potts, 15. Tyler Doney, 16. Ben Olsen, 17. Sione Tuitupou Kutu, 18. Trentham Petersen, 19. Blake Layton, 20. Harry Whitfield, 23. Jack Jackson.
1. Jacob Church, 2. Cooper O’Connor, 3. Nicolas Hall, 4. Junior Tupou, 5. Aidan Gaffey, 6. Thomas Croker, 7. Jordan Williams, 8. Bradley Buckley, 9. Mitchel Souter, 10. Jesse Thompson, 11. Jack Williams, 12. Clay Webb, 13. Adam Barlow. Interchange. 14. Isimeli Vaili, 15. Tyson Kelly, 16. Wezley Alexander, 17. William Hills, 18. Mladen Zec, 19. Neueli Mariner, 20. Ryan Sanderson, 21. Fred Griffiths.
Minor premiers and undefeated for in this season, the Under 16s Newcastle Knights are now playing for a spot in the decider.
The squad earned a week off after defeating the Illawarra Steelers 40-30 in the qualifying final, an extra week of preparation for their clash against the Canberra Raiders this Saturday.
With a close win against the Raiders earlier this season, captain Jaron Purcell knows they’ll have to stick to what they know.
“Mostly our defence, our defence will win us games, we know we’ve got the attack right,” he explained.
“We have played them in the regular season, it was a tough win down in Canberra so it will be another tough game this week.”
The Knights forward admits coach Mark Morrissey will expect a solid effort in defence on the day.
“A big performance defensively, he wants to see a big defensive game and if we work well, winning the ruck both in attack and defence, I think we’ll come away with the win,” commented Purcell.
“It gives us confidence especially with Moz (Mark Morrissey) being the coach last year, he knows how to handle it and he brings that experience for us this year.
“It is a good squad, all the boys in pre-season got together, had to push each other, work for each other and it kind of joined us a lot.”
Vice-captain Bradman Best hopes the week off will see a refreshed side turn up.
“It has been good having the break but hopefully getting the rest helps us to prepare better and hopefully we get the win on the weekend,” explained Best.
Switching from the forwards to fullback, Best said he has a new appreciation for the game.
“I have learnt well, you can see the game differently from behind but I have really liked it and enjoying it so far,” he said.
“I could do a bit better under the ball but it’s a learning process and hopefully I don’t drop too many this wekend.”
The number one agrees defence will be the key for the chance to play in the grand final.
“Hopefully if we all defend together and save tries we win the game as well,” Best said.
“Just our usual things, no penalties, no dropped ball and good preparation this week, training hard and game on.”
While there is a glimmer of grand final redemption after the Knights' loss to the Parramatta Eels in a close encounter last year, the junior side is trying to stay focused on the job at hand.
“We haven’t really spoken about the grand final too much but hopefully if we win this weekend then it will be massive to play in the GF again,” commented Best.