Newcastle Knights v Blacktown Workers
Date: Friday, March 9
Location: McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Nick Meaney, 2. Tom Cronan, 3. Ken Sio, 4. Cory Denniss, 5. Tom Hughes, 6. Christian Hazard, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Josh King, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Sam Stone, 12. Brodie Jones, 13. Luke Yates. Interchange: 14. Jack Johns, 15. Pat Mata’utia, 16. Pasami Saulo, 17. Tyrone Amey, 18. Faitotoa Faitotoa, 19. Bobby Treacy, 20. Chris Randalll, 21. Jacob Gagai.
Anticipation is building for Reserve Grade’s first clash of the season against the Blacktown Workers at McDonald Jones Stadium.
This year’s squad is boasting a wealth of NRL experience, especially in the forward pack and coach Simon Woolford notes that’s definitely a positive for their Round 1 clash.
“We’d expect that experience to be used well, with guys like Josh King, Luke Yates, Jacob Saifiti, Danny Levi and Sam Stone certainly helping our cause,” said Woolford.
ISP will also see a change in the halves with Brock Lamb named on the bench for the NRL squad on Friday.
“(Jack) Coggs and Christian (Hazard) will be starting in the halves and Jack Johns will come off the bench,” explained Woolford.
“Jack will be our utility off the bench, he can play a number of positions, so we’ll just see how the game pans out and how healthy we stay throughout the game but we’ve certainly got some talent in our halves.
“They’ve all had a really good pre-season, Christian has come down from the Queensland Cup so he trained most of the year at nine but having Danny (Levi) back now, we’ve put him into the halves so I’m pretty happy with our spine.”
The ISP coach admits his backline isn’t too shabby either.
“Cory Denniss has had a great pre-season, Tom Cronan is in our part time squad and you know what you’re going to get from him every week, while Ken Sio has played a lot of NRL and he’s going to be a handy acquisition,” he added.
“We’re pretty strong all around the park, we’re a relatively young team so it’s important for those guys with NRL experience to lead by example.”
Newcomers Bobby Treacy, Chris Randall and Jacob Gagai have all been named on the extended bench and have impressed Woolford so far.
“Those three guys performed extremely well at a local level and they came into our part time squad and had a full pre-season,” Woolford commented.
“Jacob has had his moments with a knee injury so his pre-season has been hampered but certainly showed us in those couple of trials he could handle ISP level.
“Chris and Bobby Treacy have been up there with the best as far as pre-season goes and performed really well in the trials, so while those guys might not get a run this week, they’re certainly knocking on the door and will be in the team at some stage during the year.”
As for their opponents, Woolford knows they’ll be a strong outfit looking to off-load the ball at any chance they get.
“They’re a big and powerful team, they’ve got a lot of big guys who like to run hard and off load the footy,” said Woolford.
“That’s an area we’re going to need to be really good at, stopping and limiting their offloads and if we do that, we feel we’re a pretty good chance of winning the game.
“We’ve had plenty of practice, we’ve talked about it, but come Friday night we really need to do a good job on their big men.”
Looking back on last season, Woolford wants to see a strong start in the first couple of matches.
“Last year our start to the season was poor, we ended up chasing most of the year, although we did end up finishing off well, and made the semi-finals,” he explained.
“You do really need to start the season well, you don’t want to be chasing and being zero from three like last year, it was pretty tough.
“We’d certainly like to have that reversed this year but we’re at home, we’re going to be in front of a big crowd and there’s going to be a lot of expectation on both teams so it’s important we start the season well, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”
Newcastle Knights v Blacktown Workers