For the first time in a month, the nib Newcastle Knights will be playing back at home this Sunday.
They come up against a Canberra Raiders side that is potentially just one win away from getting back into the top eight.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Date: Sunday May 14
Gates open: 11.30am
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Jaelen Feeney, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Sam Stone, 13. Luke Yates. Interchange: 14. Anthony Tupou, 15. Joe Wardle, 16. Jack Stockwell, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Trent Hodkinson, 19. Tyler Randell, 20. Josh King, 21. Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Iosia Soliola, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange: 14. Adam Clydsdale, 15. Dunamis Lui, 16. Clay Priest, 17. Joseph Tapine, 18. Scott Sorensen, 19. Jordan Turner, 20. Dave Taylor, 21. Zac Santo.
This week sees the NRL celebrate and acknowledge the contributions made by the Indigenous community to rugby league.
There is a long roll call of fantastic Indigenous players that have graced the game with their talents, with Arthur Beetson, Johnathan Thurston and Preston Campbell just the tip of the iceberg.
The Knights will have three Indigenous players running out this weekend in Dane Gagai, Josh Starling and Jaelen Feeney, and the team will also be wearing a special Indigenous jersey designed by Gagai and Feeney.
Battle of the forwards
It’s become a bit of a cliché that the forward pack has to dominate to allow the backs to do their thing, but against the Raiders it definitely rings true.
Three of the green machine’s starting forwards have represented their country, and props Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd weigh a combined 232kg.
While the Knights’ forwards are no slouches in the size department, it’s crucial that they get the upper hand in the middle so that young halves Brock Lamb and Jaelen Feeney can get into the game.
One thing in the red and blues’ favour is that international wrecking ball Josh Papalii won’t be playing.
“Anytime a side loses a Test or Queensland Origin player it is going to make their side not as good and that’s why Josh Papalii is such a good player,” coach Nathan Brown said on Thursday.
“Any time a side loses a player of that quality, it certainly has some effect… but with the depth in their squad I’m sure they will be comfortable covering it.”
While ten Knights were on representative duty last weekend, eight of this week’s starting 13 did not get the call up.
On the other hand, despite boasting a star-studded squad, only four of the Raiders’ starting 13 this week played a representative match.
While the general consensus is that having a week off benefits players at this time of year, for the Knights it could be the other way around.
Nathan Ross will certainly come back to the red and blue with renewed confidence after a big win in City v Country, while players such as Sione Mata’utia and the Saifiti twins spent a week with some of the most experienced players in the game.
Representative experience will only benefit the performances of these younger players moving forwards, and they shouldn’t be too fatigued having played their games last Saturday.
THE FINAL SAY
They are full of representative forwards and I’m just going to put my best foot forward,” prop Daniel Saifiti said during the week.
"We played Canberra in the trials so I got a bit of insight into how they play.”