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nib Newcastle Knights coach, Nathan Brown, made good on his promise to make changes for this Saturday's big match-up against Manly at Lottoland.

Desire and effort will be the first thing on the agenda for the revamped line-up, with the squad embracing the changes in the starting 17 in order to recapture their winning form.

Sione Mata'utia has dropped back to the bench to add some spark in the forward pack.

Ponga: Turbo battle, belief and Manly middle

The 23-year-old says the critique and messages from within the group is part and parcel of playing at the top level.

"It's one of the hardest things as players to hear from a coach (the criticism), there have been players who have had to have the hard talk because at the end of the day we want to put the team first, and there's a team goal as we want to get to the finals," Mata'utia said.

"We have to show character in how we react to feedback, and that's one of the important things.

"One of those messages is playing for the full 80 and giving it our best."

Players such as Danny Levi will miss out this week, although the team will be boosted by the return of pragmatic forwards, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Jacob Saifiti.

No Pearce, no momentum, no problem

"We have a bit of depth and good players in the team, the boys know if you don't perform well, you're going to get dropped and seeing bigger names move to the (NSW) cup side, it's definitely a wake-up call," Mata'utia said.

"Fitzy (Lachlan Fitzgibbon) deserves (his spot), he has been one of the best in-form back-rowers at the club for the last two years, me as a player, I have to react, and I've been playing well off the bench when I have played well there."

The match against the SeaEagles will be a real test for the Knights with key match-ups including Mitchell Pearce up against his Origin rival, Daly Cherry Evans, and Kalyn Ponga facing his opposite number in Tom Trbjoveic.

The winners of the two mouth-watering head-to-heads will go a long way to deciding the result of this highly-anticipated fixture.

"I dare say they're going to have a big crowd, they're in some good form and Tommy Turbo is a player who can pop up anywhere and one we have to look out for," Mata'utia continued.

"It's going to be a big challenge, but we've got to be confident."