NRL match preview: Round 24
For the first time since 2015, the Knights are sitting on three consecutive wins heading into a match.
Challenges don’t get any bigger than taking on the Melbourne Storm in their current form, but the red and blues head into this game full of confidence and with plenty of home support behind them.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v MELBOURNE STORM
Date: Saturday August 19
Gates open: 10.30am
Venue: McDonald Jones 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. Luke Yates, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Jack Cogger, 19. Mickey Paea, 20. Brendan Elliot, 21. Chanel Mata’utia.
1. Billy Slater, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Joe Stimson, 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14. Nelson Asofa-Soloman, 15. Jahrome Hughes, 16. Kenny Bromwich, 17. Slade Griffin, 18. Tohu Harris, 19. Brodie Croft, 20. Robbie Rochow, 21. Nate Myles.
Strong home record against Storm
While the Knights’ overall head-to-head record against the Storm isn’t brilliant, at home it’s a different story.
The Novocastrians have won ten of their 16 matches against the Storm at McDonald Jones Stadium, a home record that most teams can’t match.
That being said, the red and blues haven’t beaten Melbourne at home since that unforgettable match back in 2014 when Kurt Gidley sealed a 32-30 victory from the sideline after the final siren.
Only two Knights from that 2014 side will be lining up this Saturday (Sione Mata’utia and Dane Gagai), while five Storm players remain (Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich and Cameron Smith).
While none of the players are under any illusions about how difficult it will be to beat the Storm on Saturday night, a number have spoken publicly about the advantage that the Club’s home support provides.
“They are definitely a vocal crowd and they turn out in numbers,” 2017 recruit Shaun Kenny-Dowall told media on Tuesday.
“I can’t wait to see how many are out there on Saturday because we’ve won three-in-a-row and we’re up against the front runners in the competition.”
Early ticket sales suggest another strong crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium, which is something that Ken Sio would love to see.
“Our fans have always been our strength and we always want to repay them with wins,” he said.
“This week we get the chance to do it again and repay their faith.”
While the Storm lead the competition in several areas, one of their weaknesses this season lies in goal-kicking accuracy.
They rank 14th in the NRL at 69 per-cent, while the Knights come 4th with 80 per-cent.
Smith has been the chief kicker for the Storm in 2017 with Cameron Munster acting as deputy, while Trent Hodkinson has been on-song for the Knights with Brock Lamb his back-up.
If the game pans out as a tight affair, goal-kicking will be crucial to the final scoreline.
THE FINAL SAY
“Everyone knows Melbourne have probably been the most consistent team for probably the past 12 or so years, and it’s been built off the back of a lot of good defence,” coach Nathan Brown said on Tuesday.
“But our home form is really important to us and our home fans are really important to us.
“They have consistently turned up in some tough times so to play well at home is very important to us.”