The nib Newcastle Knights return to McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon against the top-of-the-table Parramatta Eels.
Holding on for a gallant 14-12 win over Manly last Sunday, Tex Hoy starts on the wing, while Starford To'a and Brodie Jones come into the squad in place of Edrick Lee and Sione Mata'utia.
Eels lock Nathan Brown returns to the starting side after serving a two week suspension and forward Stefano Utoikamanu is set to make his NRL debut.
Will Smith and Andrew Davey were the players cut from the reserves list on Saturday.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PARRAMATTA EELS
Date: Sunday, July 12
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Every Angle, Every Call: 'That is special!'
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If you can't catch the game on TV or radio, the Knights will be blogging the game at newcastleknights.com.au.
Hoy: Playing wing, defensive mindset and utility value
1. Kalyn Ponga, 18. Tautau Moga, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Herman Ese'ese. Interchange: 2. Tex Hoy, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Pasami Saulo, 17. Brodie Jones,
1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jai Field, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown, 14. David Gower, 15. Stefano Utoikamanu, 16. Marata Niukore, 17. Brad Taikarangi.
BACK TO NEWCASTLE
Four months on from their last appearance at McDonald Jones Stadium, the Knights will be back on home soil on Sunday afternoon.
Forced to relocate to the Central Coast for home matches against Melbourne and Brisbane due to coronavirus protocols, the Knights can expect a warm reception with 7,500 members set to create a euphoric atmosphere every time the Newcastle chant is belted out.
Winning seven of their past nine matches against the Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium, look for the likes of Andrew McCullough and Tex Hoy to revel in the experience of a Newcastle home crowd for the first time as NRL players in the red and blue.
TAKING ON THE COMPETITION LEADERS
Facing off against the Eels in several epic encounters over the past 33 seasons, the Knights will be raring to rip in against their former grand final foes.
Enjoying a dominant record over the blue and golds with 11 wins from 14 meetings throughout the 2010s, the match will be only the second time the Eels have played away from Bankwest Stadium since the season resumed.
Hosting the Eels in their very first premiership match back in 1988, the Knights will be determined to test themselves against the competition front-runners and cement a place in the top four.
BIG MAN, BIG MILESTONE
Watch: The Rd.8 defensive moments that mattered
Providing strong service at lock and off the bench this season, Newcastle forward Herman Ese’ese will bring up 50 appearances for the club on Sunday.
Playing the best football of his career in the Hunter after previous stints with Brisbane and Canterbury, the 25-year-old Samoan and New Zealand international has averaged 105 metres and 24 tackles in 2020 to rank among the club’s unsung heroes.
Set to face off against returning enforcer Nathan Brown in a key personal duel, look for Ese’ese to rise to the occasion and celebrate his milestone match with a win.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
The Knights have an 82 per cent completion rate - the third best in the league behind Penrith and Manly.
Bradman Best was 52-days-old when Newcastle defeated Parramatta in the 2001 grand final.
EELS STAT ATTACK
The Eels last win in Newcastle was back in 2016 - only five players remain contracted to Parramatta from the team that won 20-18.
Blake Ferguson has scored 12 tries from 16 clashes against the Knights - a strike rate of 75 per cent.
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This week's charity partner is Soul Cafe.
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