NRL match preview: Round 26

It only seems like yesterday that the 2017 season kicked off, but this weekend the nib Newcastle Knights will be playing their final match of the year.

It has been a season where all of the Club’s younger players have learnt plenty of lessons, and Old Boys Day provides the perfect platform for them to show just how far they’ve come in the last six months.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CRONULLA SHARKS

Date: Sunday September 3
Gates open: 11.30am
Kick-off: 2pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium

HEAD-TO-HEAD
Played: 35
Knights: 20
Sharks: 15

SQUADS

Knights
1. Nathan Ross, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Jack Cogger, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Jacob Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh King, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Joe Wardle, 15. Tyrone Amey, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Mickey Paea, 18. Brendan Elliot, 19. Pasami Saulo, 20. Jaelen Feeney, 21. Chanel Mata’utia.

Sharks
1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Kurt Capewell, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Gerard Beale, 6. James Maloney, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Luke Lewis, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Jayson Bukuya, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jeremy Latimore, 17. James Segeyaro, 18. Joseph Paulo, 19. Fa’amanu Brown, 20. Jesse Ramien, 21. Jack Bird.

TALKING POINTS

Old Boys Day

It’s traditionally the biggest day on the calendar for Knights fans as well as players, as the Club’s former players attend the game.

The Old Boys will once again form a guard of honour for the team to run out through, while the Club’s illustrious 1997 premiership winning side will make a lap of honour before the game.

It’s a highly emotional afternoon for the current players, who use it as motivation to play at their best.

“It's everyone’s dream to play in an NRL Old Boys Day,” starting prop Josh King said earlier in the week.

“The biggest motivator is that they’re all going to be coming out and watching and you don’t want to let them down because they’re what started the Club.”

The history

Earlier this year the red and blues gave a good account of themselves against the 2016 premiers when they went down 19-18 in Cronulla.

While it was far from a perfect display, the team showed plenty of grit to pull themselves level with the Sharks late on, only to be sunk by a James Maloney field goal before the siren.

It was a different story against the Sharks at home last year, which was a game that no player or fan would want to remember.

The team has come a very long way in its development since then though, and will be fired up to show just how much better they are.