The nib Newcastle Knights travel to CBUS Super Stadium on Friday evening to take on the Gold Coast Titans in the final round of the home-and-away season.
Producing a dominant 42-18 win over the Dragons on Old Boys Day last Sunday, Kurt Mann returns at hooker from suspension, while Edrick Lee and Bradman Best are set to reunite their potent combination on the left edge.
The Titans welcome Brian Kelly back from an ankle injury to bolster the Titans backline, with his replacement at centre Treymain Spry to move to the wing.
Mitch Rein will line up at hooker after taking an early plea for a 'dangerous throw' charge.
Both sides are unchanged as per the teams named on Tuesday.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Date: Friday, September 25
Venue: CBUS Super 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.
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Mason Lino, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Kurt Mann, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Sione Mata'utia, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Chris Randall, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Herman Ese'ese, 17. Brodie Jones.
Randall: THAT run, No.9 influences
1. AJ Brimson, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Brian Kelly, 4. Young Tonumaipea, 5. Treymain Spry, 6. Ashley Taylor, 7. Jamal Fogarty, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Moeaki Fotuaika, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Sam Stone, 13. Tyrone Peachey. 14. Tanah Boyd, 15. Sam Lisone, 16. Jai Arrow, 17. Jai Whitbread.
In a year unlike any other in the club’s history, the Knights will play their final match of the home-and-away season on Friday evening.
Heading into the final round in sixth position following 11 wins and a draw, the COVID-19 impacted year has seen eight players debut for the club - including local juniors Tex Hoy, Chris Randall and Brodie Jones.
Overcoming a wretched injury toll that has sidelined playmakers Jayden Brailey, Andrew McCullough, Connor Watson and Blake Green for lengthy periods, the ‘next man up’ mentality instilled by coach Adam O’Brien has resulted in the side qualifying for the finals for the first time since 2013.
REMEMBER THE TITANS
The Knights may hold a superior overall record against the Titans with 12 wins from 22 meetings, but in clashes played north of the border the side has struggled to get the job done.
Losing five of their nine matches at CBUS Super Stadium - including their past four visits in a row - Sione Mata’utia is the only current player to taste victory on the Gold Coast as a Newcastle rookie back in 2015.
Get to know the story of the Saifiti twins
With the Titans eyeing off five straight wins for the first time in a decade, the Knights will need to treat their opponents with respect or run the risk of missing out on a home final next weekend.
ALL TO PLAY FOR
Next weekend will be the first time in seven years the Knights play finals football.
Should the side win on Friday evening it will be the first time a final has been hosted at McDonald Jones Stadium since 2006.
While a loss could still see the Knights host a home final, the side would need the Rabbitohs to lose to the Roosters later in the same evening.
With so much on the line, including the chance to play in front of a larger home crowd following eased COVID-19 measures, the Knights will have no shortage of motivation for a strong performance against the ninth-placed Titans.
BEST IS BACK
Making a welcome return on the eve of the finals, young gun Bradman Best will be out to continue his strong form in the centres.
Spending seven weeks sidelined with an ankle injury sustained against the Storm, the 19-year-old powerhouse has been terrific in his first full season with seven tries, 26 tackle-breaks and 152 metres on average.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
Joey's Rd19 Review: Ponga magic, home final motivation
The Knights have a 100 per cent record when leading at halftime (11/11).
Daniel and Jacob Saifiti debuted together in first grade against the Titans in the opening round of the 2016 season.
TITANS STAT ATTACK
The Titans have won three of their seven matches at CBUS Super Stadium in 2020.
Former Newcastle second rower Sam Stone has scored in his past two matches for the Titans.