The nib Newcastle Knights will take on one of the form teams of the premiership when they face Canberra on Sunday afternoon.
Producing one of the gutsiest performances in the club’s history to draw 14-all with Penrith last week, the Knights will welcome back Kalyn Ponga and hand new recruit Andrew McCullough his first start in red and blue colours.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Date: Sunday, June 7
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
FOLLOW THE ACTION
If you can't catch the game on TV or radio, the Knights will be blogging the game at newcastleknights.com.au.
Debutants dissect Penrith draw
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce (c), 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Aidan Guerra, 12. Sione Mata'utia, 13. Herman Ese'ese, Interchange: 14. Tex Hoy, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Tim Glasby, 17. Brodie Jones
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Crocker (c), 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Corey Horsburgh, 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Sia Soliola. 17. Jordan Rapana
Having lost Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson in the first 10 minutes last week, the Knights could have been expected to fold under the circumstances.
Not so under Adam O’Brien.
Showing a level of resolve rarely seen by any team in the NRL, the Knights showed tremendous courage to repel the wealth of possession enjoyed by the Panthers and make 77 extra tackles.
Joey's Rd 3 Breakdown: Courageous forwards and dynamite debuts
Conceding less than 13 points per game in their first three performance under the former Melbourne and Sydney assistant, the premiership-winning mindset instilled by O’Brien looks set to give the Knights a defensive edge that has been missing in recent times.
BACKING UP FROM LAST WEEK
Hoy: Whirlwind debut, extra time, moving position
Splitting the points with Penrith in a performance regarded among the gutsiest ever seen over the past three decades, Newcastle will need to defy history if they hope to take down the Green Machine.
Taking part in 16 draws prior to last Sunday’s 14-all result at Campbelltown Stadium, the Knights have historically struggled to back up the following week - winning just six matches and a draw.
Managing three wins and a draw from the past 10 clashes against Ricky Stuart’s Raiders, coach Adam O’Brien will be hoping for better luck with injuries as the Knights prepare for another physical encounter set to go the distance.
SIMPLY THE BEST
Every Angle, Every Call: Best locks things up
Brought into the squad as a late inclusion last Sunday, 18-year-old centre Bradman Best produced an eye-catching turn against the Panthers.
Playing only his fourth game in first grade after debuting late last year, the Australian Schoolboys and NSW Under 16s and 18s representative was a standout at left centre running for close to 200 metres and bagging a brace of tries.
Set to oppose former Melbourne premiership winner Curtis Scott in an enthralling personal duel on Sunday afternoon, look for Best to receive plenty of early ball.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
The Knights hold a 50 per cent winning record backing up from golden point matches (7/14).
Jacob Saifiti has starred off the bench averaging close to 130 metres in three appearances this season.
RAIDERS STAT ATTACK
The Raiders are looking to start a season with four straight wins for the first time in 15 years.
Siliva Havili will play his 50th game for the Raiders.
The game will be broadcast live on Channel 9, NBN, Fox Sports 502, Kayo, Triple M, ABC and NRL Nation.