The nib Newcastle Knights host the Sydney Roosters on Friday night in a blockbuster Indigenous Round encounter at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Coming into the much-anticipated clash off the back of an emphatic 45-12 win over the Dragons in Mudgee last Sunday, coach Nathan Brown has retained the same squad.
The Roosters however, have rested Cooper Cronk.
Former Knights playmaker Brock Lamb will come into the starting halfback position for his first NRL appearance for the Roosters.
Former Knight Zane Tetevano comes out of the side due to personal reasons.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Date: Friday, May 24
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Team Talk: Origin, halves switches, and containing the Roosters
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. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Tim Glasby, 14. Kurt Mann, 15. Herman Ese'ese, 16. James Gavet, 17. Sione Mata'utia, 18. Josh King, 19. Pasami Saulo, 20. Jamie Buhrer, 21. Mason Lino
1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Matt Ikuvalu, 6. Luke Keary, 21. Brock Lamb, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Victor Radley, 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11. Boyd Cordner (c), 12. Angus Crichton, 13. Isaac Liu. 14. Nat Butcher, 16. Sitili Tupouniua, 17. Mitchell Aubusson, 18. Lindsay Collins, 19. Ryan Hall, 20. Josh Curran
Behind the jersey: Ash 'The Flash' Gordon
Friday night will be the biggest match played by the Knights since they went down to the Roosters for a place in the grand final six years ago.
Chasing five consecutive wins for the first time since 2005, the task confronting Newcastle won’t be made any easier having managed just two wins from their past 12 contests against the Eastern Suburbs outfit at McDonald Jones Stadium.
With a huge crowd expected to be on hand to heighten the occasion, the challenge of breaking a run of six losses against the reigning premiers should make for an encounter not to be missed.
Recognising the enduring contribution made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders - past, present and emerging - to rugby league, the NRL Indigenous Round will see the Knights take the field in a specially designed jersey.
Designed by former and current players Ashley Gordon (Kamilaroi), Owen Cragie (Gomeroi), Timana Tahu (Barkindji) and Connor Watson (Gamillaroi), the strip painted by local artist Elsie Randall (Bundjalung) features totems stemming from each player’s country and people.
With some of the best Indigenous talent in the league set to take the field on Friday night for both sides, the Knights will be hoping to continue a run of memorable moments in their various Indigenous strips - most notably a four-try haul from Cooper Vuna in 2010 against Brisbane.
THE LONG WALK
Injury Report: Latest on Watson, Lee, Guerra, Griffin and Moga
Come and join Indigenous Ambassadors, NRL legend Preston Campbell and AFL legend Michael Long, as we embark on ‘The Long Walk’ to raise awareness of the challenges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are confronted with and to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history.
Registration for The Long Walk will commence at Ford Oval from 4:00pm. There will be cultural performances and entertainment provided by local artists.
The Long Walk will then leave for McDonald Jones Stadium at 6.30pm
The Club has collaborated with Cultural Choice Association to raise awareness and to support the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Youth Suicide and its related causes in Australia.
Thanks to CCA, The Glen, Kirinari Hostel and Baxter Detention Centre for helping paint boots. All players will be running out wearing uniquely designed and painted boots.
All boots will be auctioned off after the game.
FRIDAY NIGHT PRIME-TIME
Afforded the rare opportunity of hosting a Friday night match in primetime, the Knights will be out to impress audiences around the rugby league globe.
Previously opposing the Roosters at home in Friday Night Football five years ago, coach Nathan Brown will be hoping for a similar result to the inspiring victory that saw 18-year-old Sione Mata’utia debut alongside his older brother, Chanel, in a match that saw the Knights rally late to get the better of the premiers 16-12.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
Kalyn Ponga produced Newcastle’s equal-fourth highest individual haul last Sunday with 24 points (2 tries and 8 goals).
Fitz: We want to kick it with the best
After ten rounds the fullback has also equalled the total set by Ken Sio as the Club’s leading points scorer last year (98).
ROOSTERS STAT ATTACK
Despite being among the best defensive teams - averaging approximately 16 points against per game - the Roosters lead the competition for errors (127).
Knights v Bears at McDonald Jones Stadium, 5.40pm Friday.
All Jersey Flegg teams have the bye.