The nib Newcastle Knights take on the Sydney Roosters in their final trial ahead of the 2020 NRL season on Saturday evening.
After a mixed showing in Maitland last Saturday against the Dragons, coach Adam O’Brien has named a strong 21-man squad to take on the reigning premiers in Gosford.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Date: Saturday, February 29
Location: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Time: 7.00pm (NRL)
Kalyn Ponga, Edrick Lee, Enari Tuala, Gehamat Shibasaki, Hymel Hunt, Kurt Mann, Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer, Jayden Brailey, Daniel Saifiti, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Aidan Guerra, Mitch Barnett, Connor Watson, Herman Ese’ese, Jacob Saifiti, Tim Glasby, Tex Hoy, Pasami Saulo, Mason Lino, Starford To’a.
Glasby: Roosters clash, fitness, Buderus
1. Asu 'AJ' Kepaoa, 2. McKenzie Baker, 3. Christian Tuipulotu, 4. James Tuitahi, 5. Matt Ikuvalu, 6. Lachlan Lam, 7. Drew Hutchison, 8. Daniel Suluka-Fifita, 9. Freddy Lussick, 10. Poasa Faamausili, 11. Egan Butcher, 12. Tom Freebairn, 13. Max Bailey. Interchange: 14. Luca Moretti, 15. Lupe Tivalu, 16. Elih Jackson, 17. Ben Thomas
Having sat out the Maitland trial due to representative commitments, Saturday evening will be the first time Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson and Pasami Saulo pull on the red and blue in 2020.
Eager to establish a potent combination alongside Mitchell Pearce, Kurt Mann and new signing Jayden Brailey, housemates Ponga and Watson will have their sights set firmly on Newcastle after facing off against each other in last week’s All Stars clash.
Giving a good account of himself in his representative debut, Maori front rower Pasami Saulo will be looking to build upon his newfound confidence to earn a position for the season opener in a fortnight’s time.
LESSONS FROM LAST WEEK
While the final score was less than hoped for against the Dragons, coach O’Brien will be looking forward with optimism ahead of the season opener.
Setting the pace for much of the opening half to go into the change of ends level at 6-all, the decision to rest a host of regular first-graders saw the score line blow out in an unfair reflection of the match as a whole.
Fitzgibbon: Roosters challenge and competition for spots
Providing a number of younger players with a taste of the NRL, the disappointment of being outclassed against the joint venture should serve as a valuable lesson of what it takes to succeed in first grade.
Scoring tries through back up hookers Chris Randall and Luke Huth off the back of two lovely offloads close to the line, the increased minutes for many of the club’s leading players should bring about a much-improved performance against the defending World Club Challenge champions.
READYING FOR ROUND ONE
Naming a much-leaner 21-man squad for the final trial, coach O’Brien will be keeping a close watch on a number of positions that remain up for grabs.
Among the positions yet to be determined ahead of round one, a number of outside backs and second rowers will be determined to make every post a winner to ensure a place in the team to take on the Warriors.
Showing plenty of promise in his first hit-out with the club, former North Queensland speedster Enari Tuala will be looking to press his case for a backline berth against the likes of Gehamat Shibasaki, Starford To’a and Tex Hoy.
With versatile forward Sione Mata’utia sidelined with a knee injury, a place in the backrower is now available.
Unlike last week, where the game was played in quarters. This match will be played in two 40 minute stints.
The Knights will stream the NRL trial on newcastleknights.com.au from 7pm.
Tickets from $20 for adults and $12 for juniors, while a Family Pass can be purchased for $40.
All tickets are available for pre-purchase via Ticketek. Alternatively, tickets will be available via ticket outlets at Central Coast Stadium on the day.
Gates Open: 2.25PM
Jersey Flegg: 2.35PM
Canterbury Cup: 4.40PM
NRL Kick Off: 7PM
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