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NRL match preview: Eels trial

Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels
Saturday, February 24
Maitland’s No. 1 Sportsground

The nib Newcastle Knights will be hoping to make it two from two when they clash with the Parramatta Eels in their second trial match at Maitland on Saturday. 

Coach Nathan Brown has selected an almost full-strength side, minus Mitch Barnett, to take the field and it’s shaping up to be a thrilling contest.



1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Herman Ese’ese. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer, 17. Jacob Saifiti.


1. Bevan French, 2. Kirisome Auva’a, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Jarryd Hayne, 5. Josh Hoffman, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Mitch Moses, 8. Daniel Avaro, 9. Cameron King, 10. Tim Mannah, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Brad Takairangi, 13. Nathan Brown.  Interchange: 14. Beau Scott, 15. Kenny Edwards, 16. Kane Evans, 17. Suaia Matagi, 18. Tepai Moeroa, 19. Peni Terepo, 20. Will Smith, 21. Kaysa Pritchard, 22. David Gower. 

Down the middle

As it’s so often said, the game will be decided through the middle.

With a mix of youth and experience available in the forward pack, coach Nathan Brown has plenty of talent to choose from.

Newcomer Herman Ese’ese will take the number 13 jersey in place of injured Mitch Barnett and maintains the squad's focus needs to be on their own game.

“We shouldn’t worry about Parramatta too much, just be confident and trust the process,” he told Knights TV on Wednesday.

He’ll be matching up against a formidable opponent in Nathan Brown, with the Eels lock saying this week Parramatta will have a key focus on defence.

Centre stage

With the Knights fielding a line-up of big outside backs, there’s no doubt the eye will be drawn to the tussle out wide.

Welcomed back into his old side, the Eels’ Jarryd Hayne will draw a lot of interest for the visitors, partnering Josh Hoffman on the right edge.

It will be a return to the centres for Knights favourite Sione Mata’utia, and the big body of Tautau Moga will be a definite threat to the Eels on Newcastle’s home turf.

Fresh look

For fullback Kalyn Ponga, it will only be the second time the 19-year-old has come up against the Eels.

The athletic youngster maintains his opponents are strong across the park but believes patience will be the key to working out new combinations.

Ponga admits he’s not going to change too much from his previous trial game against the Melbourne Storm, but is keen to get out there and play in front of a big red and blue crowd.

“Just by talking to the fans, they’re eager to watch us play and to get behind us,” he said.

 Not just a trial

It might be a trial match with no points up for grabs, but players are taking it just as seriously as they would a game during the season

For some, it will be their ticket into the 17 for Round 1, and coach Brown has clearly stated there are still some positions up for grabs.

“A good performance this week can help people start the year in first grade,” Brown said after training on Tuesday.

While the Match at Maitland’s No. 1 Sportsground is sold out, you don’t need to miss out with the NRL match lives streamed right here on