nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown maintains they’ll have to make the most of their home ground advantage against the Canberra Raiders this Sunday.
As one of the top try scorers for the season, Brown admits they’ll need to be wary of Canberra despite them sitting tenth on the ladder.
“They had a great year last year,” said Brown.
“If you look at their performances this year they’ve had those two golden point losses, where-as they were winning those games last year.
“A side like them is aiming at the pointy end of the table.”
The Knights coach knows the Raiders are a quality outfit.
“They put their squad together over a three or four-year period and I’m sure we can all agree that they’re a squad at their best,” commented Brown.
“It will be a big challenge but they have a couple of injuries, a touch unlucky not to play in last year’s grand final.”
Brown said it’s been unfortunate they’ve also been forced to deal with several player injuries.
“We definitely came into the season very confident Dylan Pythian was going to be our fullback and we were very confident Rory (Kostjasyn) was going to be our hooker, five-eighth cover,” explained Brown.
“Jamie (Buhrer) our back row and hooker... so with the loss of those blokes to injury it has made things a little bit different."
While Buhrer is on schedule to return in Round 14, Kostjasyn continues to recover from a throat injury.
“The general thought with Rory is it is more likely that he won’t play than he will play," Brown said.
“We couldn’t be 100 per cent sure but we certainly want to give him every opportunity to play because he’s had such a great influence even though he hasn’t even play one game."
The Knights coach said time and performance will determine any changes in the halves after naming Jaelen Feeney and Brock Lamb there this weekend.
“We have looked at one or two things and the form of Jaelen and Brock will probably play a part,” Brown said.
“The last thing you want to do is change our young halves after one performance.
“Jaelen has earned the right to have a couple of goes but I think we’ll be a little clearer in another two or three games, what our best side will be.
“If one of our halves wasn’t fit, Hokko (Trent Hodkinson) would obviously come in, his game in reserve grade was quite good.”
With Raiders forward Josh Papalii missing from the side, Brown believes it will have some impact on their opponent’s game.
“Anytime a side loses a test or origin Queensland player it is going to make their side not as good and that’s why Josh Papalii is such a good player,” said Brown.
“They have moved Iosia Soliola there and he’s been outstanding and to get Joe (Tapine), we all know what a wonderful player Joe is.
“Any time a side loses a player of that quality, it certainly has some effect but with the depth in their squad and the talent I’m sure they will be comfortable covering it.”
The Knights coach maintains it will be a great occasion this weekend at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“It is a big day with the Indigenous Round for all 16 clubs,” added Brown.
“Newcastle, we’ve got over 22,000 Indigenous people that live in the area.
“We had two players that designed the jumper and we’re one of the only clubs or the only club with the Indigenous players playing on the day who designed the jumper.
“It is about their families and where they’re from which is important and its Mother’s Day as well so I think everyone would like to do well for their mums.”