The anticipation is building…. the nerves are growing.
We can’t wait for the weekend to begin to see the Newcastle Knights clash with the Penrith Panthers at home.
And as usual, there’s a stack of rip-roaring match-ups to keep our eyes glued to Saturday night.
Edrick Lee v Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
After his astonishing debut for the Knights last week Edrick Lee will be a definite man to watch with a mouth-watering contest out wide against Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
Physically, Lee has got the upper hand, standing 10cm taller than his Panthers opponent and three kgs heavier, but it’s Watene-Zelezniak who has five more first grade games up his belt.
Lee is a clear standout in finding the line. The lanky winger recorded 12 tries in 2018 against Watene-Zelezniak’s five and already Lee is ahead in 2019, with a match winning try last week.
Watene-Zelezniak has Lee beat in all run metres, with 2942 on the board for the Panther, a sizeable gap over Lee’s 2298 last year.
But it seems Lee can prove a little bit trickier for his opposition. The talented back managed 18 line breaks to Watene-Zelezniak’s 8 in 2018.
Kalyn Ponga v James Maloney
You couldn’t get a more juicier match-up than these two.
Maloney, the 32-year-old veteran and NSW Origin half versus Ponga, an excitement machine, young gun and all-round dazzler.
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They are worlds apart when it comes to experience with Maloney showcasing a decorative career of 226 NRL games, while Ponga has only notched up 30 matches.
But it doesn’t mean the young apprentice can’t blitz it against the master.
The red and blue five-eighth is one very hard customer to handle, proving last year that with his trademark side-step, he pulled off an impressive 12 line breaks and a whooping 140 tackle breaks. That’s over 100 tackle breaks more than Maloney.
Try wise, they’re much the same with six to Ponga and four to Maloney in 2018, although the Penrith five-eighth notched up more on the points tally with 30 conversions in the bag.
Meanwhile on the defensive front, Maloney is the clear winner. The 32-year-old got involved a lot more with 278 tackles made last year to Ponga’s 105… but we think that may have something to do with Ponga being in the fullback role.
Tim Glasby v James Fisher-Harris
This should be an exhilarating clash of the middle men.
After a standout debut for the Knights last week, Glasby will be hoping to replicate a memorable performance again this week.
The Knight forward comes up against a much younger opponent and has the experience of 111 NRL games against Fisher-Harris' 64.
The defensive efforts between the pair have been similar with Glasby just edging out Fisher-Harris by two per cent in the tackle efficiency last year.
But the 23-year-old does have bragging rights with a staggering 867 tackles made last year to Glasby’s 550.
Not known for their scoring prowess, Glasby got one up on Fisher-Harris last year with one try in the bag….. already he’s equalled that, recording the first try for the Knights 2019 season last week.