The nib Newcastle Knights will take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday evening.
Going down 10-4 in a hard-fought match against Parramatta last Sunday, the side will welcome back Connor Watson, Sione Mata’utia and Mitch Barnett from injury.
Souths fullback Latrell Mitchell (suspension) and centre Campbell Graham (facial fracture) are out, with Alex Johnston switching to fullback, Dane Gagai moving to centre and a new wing pairing called up in Corey Allan and debutant Jaxson Paulo.
Bench forward Mark Nicholls successfully challenged the grading of a dangerous contact charge at the judiciary on Tuesday night to take his place in the side.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Date: Saturday, July 18
Venue: Bankwest 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.
Joey’s Rd9 breakdown: Attacking fix, missed chances
Both sides will line up 1-17 for today's clash at Bankwest Stadium.
Tex Hoy misses his first game since the COVID-19 suspension, with Adam O'Brien opting to cut Hoy, Gehamat Shibasaki, Josh King and Phoenix Crossland from the extended bench.
Meanwhile, the Rabbitohs have dropped Steven Masters, Cory Dennis, Jack Johns and Kurt Dillon from their reserves.
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Enari Tuala, 3. Tautau Moga, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Herman Ese'ese, 14. Connor Watson, 15. Mitch Barnett, 16. Pasami Saulo, 17. Sione Mata'utia.
One on One: Joey and Bradman Best
1. Alex Johnston, 2. Jaxson Paulo, 3. James Roberts, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Corey Allan, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds (c), 8. Junior Tatola, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. Jaydn Su'A, 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Cameron Murray, 14. Mark Nicholls, 15. Hame Sele, 16. Bayley Sironen, 17. Patrick Mago.
RED & BLUE VS RED & GREEN
Having struggled against the Rabbitohs throughout the past decade, the Knights will be out to record back-to-back wins over the foundation club for the first time in 13 years.
Coming away with a 20-12 win in a fiery encounter last season, the fifth-placed Knights will be wary of the threat posed by the sixth-placed Rabbitohs - who will be missing superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell due to suspension.
Playing 43 games for South Sydney over the course of three seasons, Newcastle speedster Hymel Hunt will face off against his former club on Saturday evening.
Moga: NRL return, near misses and health
In a season unlike any other in the history of rugby league, Saturday marks the midway point in the Knights’ 2020 campaign.
Sitting in fifth position with five wins and a draw, the first half of the season has seen a number of players impress including the Kurt Mann in the number six jersey, teenage centre Bradman Best crossing for five tries, and Jacob Saifiti with a series of impressive showings off the bench.
Set to play six matches at McDonald Jones Stadium in the second half of the season, coach Adam O’Brien will be looking for further improvement as the side strives to return to the finals for the first time in seven years.
DOUBLE CENTURY MAN
Providing tremendous leadership since joining the club three years ago, veteran forward Aidan Guerra will bring up 200 appearances in the NRL on Saturday evening.
Beginning his first-grade career with the Roosters in 2010, the 32-year-old has enjoyed a stellar career representing Queensland, Australia and Italy, along with scoring a try in the Roosters 2013 premiership victory.
As the oldest current member of the Knights squad, Guerra continues to have an impact on the field, while offering a wealth of knowledge for the club’s emerging forwards to draw upon.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
Player Poll: Pearce crowned game's best halfback
Saturday will be only the second time the Knights have played at Bankwest Stadium.
Milestone man Aidan Guerra has scored seven tries in his career against South Sydney.
RABBITOHS STAT ATTACK
The Rabbitohs have won nine of their past 10 clashes against the Knights.
South Sydney juniors Adam Reynolds and Alex Johnston have never lost to Newcastle in first grade.
BACK FROM THE WARDS
In a welcome boost to the side second rower Mitchell Barnett and utility Connor Watson have been named to return from injury.
Damaging a nerve in his neck during the Round 2 win over the Tigers, Barnett - a two-time Danny Buderus Medallist - has been given the all-clear to return to the field in a welcome boost to the side’s forward depth.
Sidelined since July following an ankle injury sustained in the opening stages of the Round 3 draw with the Panthers, Watson has been elevated to the number 14 jersey after being named as part of the extended squad last week.
Sione Mata’utia is also back after a week’s rest.