NRL match preview: Round 23
With back-to-back wins under their belts, the nib Newcastle Knights travel down to Sydney full of confidence to take on the Parramatta Eels on Friday night.
PARRAMATTA EELS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Friday August 11
Gates open: 3.40pm
Venue: ANZ Stadium
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Joe Wardle, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Jamie Buhrer, 10. Josh King, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Luke Yates, 18. Jack Cogger, 19. Mickey Paea, 20. Brendan Elliot, 21. Chanel Mata’utia.
1. Bevan French, 2. Semi Radradra, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Brad Takairangi, 5. Kirisome Auva’a, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Mitch Moses, 8 Siosaia Vave, 9. Cameron King, 10. Tim Mannah, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Tepai Moeroa, 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. Daniel Alvaro, 15. Kenny Edwards, 16. Suaia Matagi, 17. Peni Terepo, 18. David Gower, 19. Will Smith, 20. Frank Pritchard, 21. Josh Hoffman.
Nathan Ross’ unfortunate back injury has prompted a re-shuffle this week, with three changes in the back five.
Dane Gagai returns to fullback, Joe Wardle moves into the centres and Shaun Kenny-Dowall comes back onto the wing after scoring two tries in his first two appearances for the Knights.
Meanwhile, Ken Sio retains his position on the other wing and will come up against his old club for the first time.
“I was with Parramatta since I started and I’m looking forward to the battle and going up against them, it will be awesome,” Sio said on Tuesday.
“Parramatta are a good side and they’re in red hot form.”
Forward packs the key
The Eels’ forward pack has attracted plenty of praise this season for their hard-hitting runs and no-nonsense game plan.
They rank sixth in the competition for all run metres in 2017, and 12th for errors.
“They play a really tough game and have a lot of blokes who really enjoy the physical part of the game,” coach Nathan Brown said on Tuesday.
“Manu Ma’u can play footy and he’s tough and (Nathan) Brown has been a real shining light for them.”
While the Eels starting forward pack is on average just one kilogram heavier than their red and blue counterparts, Daniel Saifiti will be the biggest on field by 10 kilograms, and has been in imposing form this season.
The twin has averaged 146 metres per game over the last five rounds and will need to have another big game if the Knights are to match their opponents in the middle.
While the finals are out of reach, the team has shown over the last few weeks that they still have plenty of motivation in playing their best for some of the most loyal fans in rugby league.
“Our goal is to win as many as we can in the last four games,” Lachlan Fitzgibbon said after the Warriors match.
On top of that, the younger members of the team are still learning their craft in first grade and want to be in the best possible shape heading into 2018.
Competition for spots will be high with a number of new recruits already announced.
“With the recruits we have coming, it should start to create some hope and faith that we’re heading in a good direction,” coach Brown explained.
THE FINAL SAY
“Getting a win away from home would be massive,” Sam Stone said on Monday.
“We always try and pride ourselves on our performances at home but I think it’s time to really do well away and there’s no better time than to start this week.”