The nib Newcastle Knights return to McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night to take on the Brisbane Broncos following the representative weekend.
Well-rested following their loss in Melbourne a fortnight ago, coach Nathan Brown has named an extended squad featuring David Klemmer and Aidan Guerra.
Players involved in last week’s various representative fixtures have also been named.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v BRISBANE BRONCOS
Date: Saturday, June 29
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. James Gavet, 9. Connor Watson, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Sione Mata'utia, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer, 15. Herman Ese'ese, 16. Josh King, 17. Pasami Saulo, 18. Mason Lino, 19. David Klemmer, 20. Jacob Saifiti, 21. Aidan Guerra
1 Darius Body, 2 Corey Oates, 3 Kotoni Staggs, 4 Gehamat Shibasaki, 5 Richie Kennar, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Sean O’Sullivan, 8 Matt Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Payne Haas, 11 David Fifita, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Tevita Pangai Junior. Interchange: 14 Jake Turpin, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Thomas Flegler, 17 Pat Carrigan, 18 Xavier Coates, 19 Jaydn Su’A, 20 James Segeyaro, 21 Shaun Fensom
Entering the New South Wales Rugby League together in 1988, Newcastle and Brisbane have enjoyed a fierce rivalry over the years.
Initially struggling against the star-studded Broncos during the club’s initial seasons, the turn of the millennium saw the Knights stand up to their northern rivals, most notably in Andrew Johns’ return from injury midway through 2001, where a 20-point haul from “Joey” saw the side produce a 44-0 demolition of the reigning premiers, paving the way for grand final success later that season.
Breaking a six-match losing streak to down Brisbane 15-10 early last season, look for the Knights to rip in on Saturday as they chase consecutive wins over the Broncos for the first time in nine years.
BUILDING AGAINST BRISBANE
In looking over Newcastle’s performances against Brisbane in recent years, the results highlight the vast improvements made over time.
Suffering a humbling 53-0 defeat at Suncorp Stadium back in 2016 with a team containing several players still eligible for Under 20s, the side showed plenty of courage in going down 34-22 the following year in Newcastle, while following a strong recruitment drive and younger players gaining experience the Knights produced one of their finest performances to emerge with a breakthrough 15-10 win last April.
Buoyed by the strides taken over the past three years, the Knights will come into the match higher on the ladder than Brisbane for the first time during coach Brown’s tenure.
STANDING UP IN DEFENCE
For as impressive as the Knights attack has been at times this season, the cornerstone of the side’s recent success has been the fortitude shown in defence.
Finishing last season with the second-worst defensive record in the league, the side has improved markedly to average 17.7 points against - a vast improvement from 25.3 points against in 2018.
Giving themselves little chance of troubling the Storm a fortnight ago with their worst completion rate this season - 58 per cent - the Knights will be well positioned to bounce back in front of another strong home crowd.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
Kalyn Ponga has kicked 44 from 51 goals this season at a success rate of 86 per cent.
BRONCOS STAT ATTACK
The Broncos have led at halftime on just four occasions this season.
Knights v Sea Eagles at HE Laybutt Field, 3.00pm Sunday.
Knights v Sea Eagles at McDonald Jones Stadium, 3.15pm Saturday.