The nib Newcastle Knights take on their arch-rivals the Manly Sea Eagles on Saturday.
The Sea Eagles have dropped Brendan Elliot and Lloyd Perrett from their extended squad.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
Date: Saturday, August 3
Sea Eagles: 32
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Kurt Mann, 6. Mason Lino, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Connor Watson, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Jacob Saifiti, 15. James Gavet, 16. Sione Mata'utia, 17. Aidan Guerra, 18. Jamie Buhrer, 21. Chris Randall
1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Brad Parker, 4 Moses Suli, 5 Reuben Garrick, 6 Dylan Walker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Manase Fainu, 10 Martin Taupau 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13 Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14 Lachlan Croker, 15 Corey Waddell, 16 Morgan Boyle, 17 Taniela Paseka, 18 Jack Gosiewski, 19 Apisai Koroisau
Of all the away grounds the Knights have played at over the years, few have been as unforgiving as Lottoland.
Travelling to the northern beaches 19 times over the past three decades for just three wins, the Knights will be out to defy history on Saturday afternoon by recording consecutive victories for the first time.
Copping a number of heavy defeats and heartbreaking losses by the barest of margins at the venue formerly known as Brookvale Oval, coach Nathan Brown will have cause for optimism following last year’s victory, where Kalyn Ponga stepped up to secure the 18-12 result via a match-winning pass to Nathan Ross with five minutes to play.
Forging an intense rivalry with Manly off the back of a number of personal duels - most notably Paul Harragon v Mark Carroll throughout the mid-90s - Saturday’s clash will see several match-ups set to define whether the Knights or Sea Eagles finish ahead on the scoreboard.
Enjoying tremendous seasons at club and representative levels respectively, Kalyn Ponga and Tom Trbojevic will be eager to press their claims as the game’s premier fullback, while Mitchell Pearce will be hoping to upstage Daly Cherry-Evans in an effort to usurp the incumbent Australian halfback in the upcoming end-of-season internationals.
With Addin Fonua-Blake establishing himself as public enemy number one when the two sides clashed earlier this season at McDonald Jones Stadium, David Klemmer will be out to do likewise on the northern beaches by assuming the revered mantle of Newcastle’s ‘Chief’ enforcer.
TURNING FOUR INTO SIX
Facing off in several closely fought contests in recent times, the ability to turn four points into six may prove to be the difference on Saturday evening.
Improving as a goal kicker markedly following mixed results in his first year at the club, Kalyn Ponga has averaged an 80 per cent success rate in 2019 to rank second in the league for points per game (9.1).
With Sea Eagles rookie Reuben Garrick enjoying a breakout year with the boot, the difference between winning and losing may come down to Ponga holding his nerve when looking to add the extras.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
The Knights have the equal-worst discipline in the NRL, conceding an average of 7.5 penalties per game.
SEA EAGLES STAT ATTACK
The Sea Eagles have produced more offloads than any team in the NRL (232). In contrast, the Knights are ranked second last (132).
The Knights have the bye.
Knights v Roosters at North Sydney Oval, 11.15am Sunday.