The nib Newcastle Knights will kick off their 2021 season with a blockbuster game up against Canterbury this Friday at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The excitement and anticipation of a new season is in the air and both clubs have named their respective teams for the opening encounter.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANTERBURY BULLDOGS
Date: Friday, March 12
NSW Cup: 3:45pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Klemmer: Pride in D-Saf and facing the Dogs
1. Tex Hoy, 2. Starford Toa, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 18. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Jayden Brailey (C), 10. Daniel Saifiti (C), 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Mitch Barnett, 14. Sauaso Sue. Interchange: 13. Connor Watson, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Josh King, 17. Brodie Jones.
1. Corey Allan, 2. Nick Meaney, 3. Will Hopoate, 4. Nick Cotric, 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Jake Averillo, 7. Kyle Flanagan, 8. Ofahiki Ogden, 9. Sione Katoa, 10. Jack Hetherington, 11. Adam Elliott, 12. Corey Waddell, 13. Josh Jackson. Interchange: 14. Brad Deitz, 15. Renouf Atoni, 16. Ray Faitala-Mariner, 17. Dylan Napa.
ROUND 1 EXCITEMENT
Every team aims to start the year on the right foot in the highly anticipated opening round.
The Knights have won their last five Round 1 games at McDonald Jones Stadium which included memorable victories against the Sharks in 2019 and Manly in 2018.
The last time the Knights were beaten at home in Round 1 was in 2012 against St George Illawarra.
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NEW SEASON BRINGS CHANGES
Both clubs will have new look sides in 2021’s Round 1, especially in key areas.
Tex Hoy will be given his chance at fullback in Kalyn Ponga’s injury absence while Connor Watson will line-up in a new role at lock forward.
New recruit Tyson Frizell will make his Knights debut in the second-row while fellow recruit Sauaso Sue will debut in jersey 14.
For the Bulldogs, the side has made a host of new signings over the off-season.
New coach Trent Barrett has selected new halfback Kyle Flanagan to steer the side around the park having arrived from the Sydney Roosters.
Other new recruits include Corey Allan (fullback), Nick Cotric (centre) and Jack Hetherington (prop).
Barnett: Edge role, Frizell influence and Dogs threats
With the new rule changes comes an expected increase in the speed of the game.
Some of the new rule changes include six agains to be called for 10-metre infringements and a play-the-ball restarts if the ball or player with the ball goes over the sideline instead of the usual scrum.
Second phase play could be a vital attacking weapon with an increasingly tired defence.
Knights prop David Klemmer led in the offloads stats for the red and blue last season, finishing second in the NRL for most offloads with 45.
The Bulldogs’ Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was top for his side last year finishing with 28 offloads.
Last year Newcastle made the finals for the first time since 2013, finishing in 6th while the Bulldogs narrowly avoided the wooden spoon, finishing in 15th.
The Knights went down in their final two games last season having been handed defeats by the Titans in the last round and a 46-20 loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the elimination final.
The side was also defeated 30-10 by Melbourne in their pre-season trial.
The Dogs finished 2020 with only one win in their last five regular season games.
The side won their only trial game against Cronulla with a 16-12 victory.
DOGS HAVE A BITE
The Knights have a poor record when facing the Bulldogs, especially at home in recent seasons.
Newcastle haven’t won against the blue and white at McDonald Jones Stadium since 2013 and have only won one of the last nine fixtures between the two clubs.
In the most recent meeting, the Bulldogs downed Newcastle 18-12 in Round 11 last year while Newcastle’s most recent win against their upcoming opponent was a 22-10 victory in Magic Round of 2019 at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
The red and blue will be aiming to end its tough run against the Bulldogs this Friday night and kick off the season with an important two points.
The 50-50 Charity Raffle is a not-for-profit fundraising product operated by the 50-50 Foundation.
50 percent of the prize pool raised at each fundraising raffle goes to one lucky ticket holder who is drawn at random during the event. The remaining 50 percent goes directly towards charitable purposes.
Our charity partner for the match is - John Hunter Children's Hospital