The nib Newcastle Knights face the Sydney Roosters on Saturday afternoon in the club’s first ever appearance at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Roosters have lost enforcer Isaac Liu from their back due to HIA protocol.
He is replaced by Sitili Tupouniua on the bench, leaving Lachlan Lam and Poasa Faamausili in the reserves.
Lindsay Collins also comes out of the side.
Looking to bounce back following last week’s disappointing 20-14 loss to the Bulldogs, Knights coach Nathan Brown has named Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Barnett to return from injury and suspension respectively.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Date: Saturday, July 20
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Team list: Office edition
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Hymel Hunt, 3. Tautau Moga, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Mitch Barnett, 12. Sione Mata'utia, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Connor Watson, 15. James Gavet, 16. Herman Ese'ese, 17. Jamie Buhrer, 18. Jacob Saifiti, 20. Mason Lino
1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Jake Friend, 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Mitchell Aubusson, 13. Victor Radley. Interchange: 15. Nat Butcher, 16. Angus Crichton, 17. Brett Morris, 19. Sitili Tupouniua, 20. Poasa Faamausili, 21. Lachlan Lam
Watson: Versatility a challenge, not a curse
For the first time in 32 seasons, Newcastle will play at one of the most iconic venues in the sporting world.
Afforded the opportunity to play at the Sydney Cricket Ground as a result of the Sydney Football Stadium redevelopment, the 17 players selected to take the field on Saturday afternoon will be out to create their own pieces of history at a ground that has featured in over a century of defining moments of rugby league in Australia.
While the majority of players selected in Nathan Brown’s squad will be making their SCG debuts, Mitchell Pearce, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jamie Buhrer, Hymel Hunt and Kurt Mann have all previously played at the venue with other clubs.
BEATING THE BENCHMARK
Injury Report: Ponga return, Griffin update
Claiming their last victory against the Roosters in Sydney a decade ago, Newcastle will be intent on taking down the reigning premiers for the second time this season.
Pulling off an emphatic 38-12 victory during Indigenous Round back in May, the Knights look set to face a far tougher challenge on Saturday afternoon with the atmosphere and crowd support unlikely to play to their advantage.
Coming into the match as outsiders having managed just four wins from 15 clashes against the Roosters this decade, the Knights will be out to press their claims as a team capable of challenging the competition front runners despite going down twice in the past fortnight.
Making a successful return to first grade after suffering his fourth ACL tear 15 months ago, Tautau Moga will have his sights set on repaying the faith shown by the club during his rehabilitation.
Named in the centres for only his sixth appearance in the red and blue, the 25-year-old Samoan international will relish the opportunity to test his skills against current Kiwi representative Joseph Manu in a key personal duel on Saturday afternoon.
Proving himself to be a fearsome competitor across stints with the Roosters, Cowboys and Broncos when fully fit, look for Moga to be a welcome addition to Newcastle’s backline with his power running and fend set to cause opponents plenty of trouble.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
Ponga: 'We had a review... we weren't good enough'
Hymel Hunt is the only Newcastle player to have won at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The versatile outside back was part of the Rabbitohs team that defeated the Dragons 26-24 in 2017.
ROOSTERS STAT ATTACK
James Tedesco leads the NRL in tackle breaks (89) and line breaks (13).
Knights v Panthers at Panthers Stadium, 12.45pm Saturday.
Knights v Panthers at Panthers Stadium, 2.50pm Saturday.