The nib Newcastle Knights return to McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on the Parramatta Eels in the final match of the NRL ANZAC Round.
Going down 38-14 on the Gold Coast last Sunday, coach Nathan Brown has stuck with the same 17 to turn their fortunes around this weekend.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PARRAMATTA EELS
Date: Sunday, April 28
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Danny Levi, 10. James Gavet, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer, 15. Herman Ese'ese, 16. Daniel Saifiti, 17. Josh King, 18. Mason Lino, 19. Tautau Moga, 20. Sione Mata'utia, 21. Pasami Saulo
1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Brad Takairangi, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Jaeman Salmon, 7. Mitch Moses, 8. Daniel Alvaro, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Marata Niukore, 13. Tepai Moeroa, Interchange: 14. Peni Terepo, 15. Tim Mannah, 16. Oregon Kaufusi, 17. Ray Stone, 18. Manu Ma’u, 19. Kane Evans, 20. Josh Hoffman, 21. George Jennings
Dating back to the club’s very first premiership match in 1988, the rivalry against Parramatta has brought out the best in Newcastle.
Despite going down in game number one - 28-4 - three decades ago, past history has seen the Knights conjure some magical moments including a record comeback from 18-0 down to win 28-20 in the 1997 finals series, Kurt Gidley’s match-winning sideline conversion in pouring rain at the start of the decade, along with the club’s first away win from 23 starts in 2017.
But above all else, September 30, 2001 will live forever in Newcastle history following a first half master class spearheaded by Andrew Johns that saw the Knights claim their second premiership after defeating the Eels 30-24 at Stadium Australia.
SUNDAY AFTERNOON FOOTBALL
For the first time since Old Boy’s Day three years ago, the Knights will host a Sunday afternoon match at 4.05pm.
Winning two of five home matches in the timeslot after the fixture was adopted fulltime four years ago, the Knights will be hoping a dominant record against the Eels serves as a positive sign of things to come, having won 10 of 12 matches throughout the 2010s, including the past three in a row.
Managing just eight wins from 27 clashes at McDonald Jones Stadium, the Eels haven’t won in Newcastle since 2016 - since that meeting only seven members of the squad from Nathan Brown’s first year in charge remain contracted to the Knights.
SPINE OF THE TIMES
For the first time since Round 3 last season, the Knights started a match with Kalyn Ponga at fullback, Connor Watson at five-eighth and Mitchell Pearce at halfback last Sunday.
Unable to establish any cohesion in 2018 with one player suffering an injury just as another returned to the field, the key spine members showed plenty of promise in spite of the final score line to give coach Brown confidence that a win is not far away.
Combining in unison with Danny Levi to create a number of chances on the Gold Coast, the narrow misses that cruelled the Knights last week should pay off on Sunday afternoon in front of a vocal home crowd.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
Kalyn Ponga produced a career best total of 234 running metres against the Titans, along with three line-breaks and seven tackle-breaks.
EELS STAT ATTACK
Of their six wins in Newcastle during the NRL era, the Eels have fought back from halftime deficits to win on four occasions.
Newcastle v Wentworthville at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday from 1.50pm.
Newcastle v Parramatta at Dudley Oval on Saturday from 1pm