Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks
Date: Saturday, April 14
Venue: Cessnock Sportsground
1. Matt Cooper, 2. Lachlan Farr, 3. Brayden Musgrove, 4. Ofa Manuofetoa, 5. Justin Worley, 6. Tex Hoy, 7. Hayden Loughrey, 8. Henry-Siriah Fuimaono, 9. Luke Huth, 10. Jirah Momoisea, 11. Kurtis Dark, 12. Beau Fermor, 13. Matthew Croker. Interchange. 14. Tevita Alifa, 15. Joe Bromage, 16. Matthew Moon, 17. Brandon Russell.
This week the top two sides will go at it in the Jersey Flegg competition, as the nib Newcastle Knights take on the Cronulla Sharks at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
Undefeated but with a draw, the Sharks are one point behind Newcastle who have blitzed the 2018 season so far with five consecutive wins, securing them at the top of the ladder.
“Cronulla are undefeated with a draw and a bye so they’ll be really good,” explained coach Todd Lowrie.
“Cronulla traditionally have very strong junior teams so we’re expecting a pretty fair game this week and hopefully it will be a good game.
“Luckily we’re playing at Cessnock, our home ground, so hopefully that gives us some sort of advantage.”
Having seen few changes so far this season, Lowrie will have some movement in his side this week as several players get promoted to ISP.
“Ofa (Manuofetoa) comes into the team in the centres with Mitch Andrews going up to ISP,” he said.
“Ofa has been in and around the team the whole year, he has been 18th man on quite a few occasions, and he’s doing all the right things at training.
“He’s just been that one person out nearly every week, but I’m certainly happy to give him the number four jersey this week.”
Tex Hoy stepped in to the halves on the weekend after an injury kept Hayden Loughrey out, but Loughrey will be back in the number seven, with Nash Birch this time suffering an injury.
“Nash hurt his shoulder last week and it seems to be a recurring thing with our halves at the moment,” Lowrie added.
“He’ll be out for only one week hopefully because he’s been doing pretty well for us.
“Tex had a really good game on the weekend, set up a try and scored a try of his own and defended really well in the line so he certainly deserves to hold his spot.”
There’s also some movement in Lowrie’s forward pack with Henry-Siriah Fuimaono replacing Pasami Saulo, who heads back to Reserve Grade, while handy hooker Tom Starling has also been shifted to ISP’s bench for Saturday.
“Henry played well for us on the weekend and he started the year for us until Pasami came back from full time duties,” Lowrie maintained.
“Henry had a really strong game on the weekend, probably his best game for the year, so it’s timely he gets another opportunity in the starting team.”
Matthew Moon also plays his second game in Jersey Flegg, named on the bench.
“Matthew came on and played a bit of hooker and a bit of half when we lost Nash at the weekend, he came on for his first game in the Under 20s,” Lowrie said.
“He was good and made an impact particularly when he was playing hooker, so I’d be keen to get him some more game time.”
Lowrie has been pleased with the way his side has tackled the start of the season and hopes they can keep up that consistency.
“Our defence has been pretty good lately, we certainly need to continue that against the Sharks, who last year I think put 80 points on a couple of teams,” Lowrie recalled.
“They’ve certainly got some attacking ability so our defence needs to be good, but probably our main improvement area that we’ll be working on is our attacking, with another new halves pairing.
“The attack probably wasn’t as fluent as it could have been on the weekend so we’ll be doing a lot of that this week to make sure we’re good in that area.”
Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks