Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors
Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Cessnock Sports Ground
1. Matt Cooper, 2. Justin Worley, 3. Star To'a, 4. Ofa Manuofetoa, 5. Elijah Rasiga, 6. Tex Hoy, 7. Phoenix Crossland, 8. Matt Croker, 9. Matthew Moon, 10. Henry-Siriah Fuimaono, 11. Kurtis Dark, 12. Ben Talty, 13. Tevita Alifa. Interchange. 14. Brandon Russell, 15. Will Davies, 16. Luke Huth, 17. Kingston Puru.
The revolving door that is the halves for the Newcastle Knights Jersey Flegg side continues to turn.
For the Under 20s clash against the New Zealand Warriors this week, Phoenix Crossland has got the call up to the halfback role, with Nash Birch out injured.
With movements at the top level including Hayden Loughrey shifting to ISP and injuries throughout the season, more and more junior players are getting their chance to impress.
"Nash hurt his leg last week and hopefully will only miss this game before we have a couple of weeks off," said coach Todd Lowrie.
"Phoenix gets his opportunity, he played SG Ball for the Club this year and played in the NSW Origin game last week, so he's a guy that is certainly doing some good things.
"We've been through quite a few halves combinations (laughs) and I just realised how many players that we have used this year, but everyone that has come in has done a good job and I'm sure he'll be the same."
Another young gun that takes his place on the bench this week is Kingston Puru from the Knights SG Ball squad.
"He has done some good things this year in the SG Ball comp and is training really well and he gets his opportunity to come in and have a game as well," Lowrie added.
As expected the Warriors outfit will be releasing a big, powerful pack.
While the Knights have boasted a formidable attacking status this season, Lowrie is still working hard with his men to get the best out of them defensively.
"They're big and strong, fast and powerful, and we've just got to be prepared to stop that," he said.
"New Zealand are big, powerful ball carriers and they're going to take a fair bit of stopping, so we have done a lot of work on our defence and getting our bodies in front of those big guys... trying to stop some offloads.
"We know as a footy team that we can score points, but our biggest focus area and challenge has always been our defence every week.
"It's just about taking a bit of pride in our own goal line because we can score them naturally but stopping them is the hard part."
And some of the middle men to do that are Tevita Alifa and Mat Croker, who by Lowrie's admission, have added a lot to the side since coming in.
"They're two guys that have really added a lot, they've taken a lot of ownership and played some big minutes over the last few weeks," Lowrie explained.
"They have played in the middle of the field and are certainly doing some of the hard stuff in the middle; two most consistent guys that have improved from the start of the year.
"They work together, work with our other middles to run plays, and taking a bit of ownership on themselves."
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