Sunday 30th March, Hunter Stadium
Newcastle Knights: Matt Minto, James McManus, Dane Gagai, Joey Leilua, Akuila Uate, Michael Dobson, Tyrone Roberts, Kade Snowden, Kurt Gidley (c), Wille Mason, Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Adam Clydsdale, Korbin Sims, David Fa’alogo, Adam Cuthbertson
Cronulla- Sutherland Sharks: Michael Gordon, Nathan Stapleton, Blake Ayshford, Ricky Leutele, Jonathan Wright, Todd Carney, Daniel Holdsworth, Andrew Fifita, John Morris, Sam Tagataese, Matt Prior, Wade Graham (c), Chris Heighington. Interchange: Isaac De Gois, Tinirau Arona, Bryce Gibbs, Siosaia Vave, Tupou Sopoaga
Normally the battle of two winless teams would not be a game that could be considered a classic. But the Knights and Sharks are better than their lowly positions suggest, and will be desperate to collect their first win of the season.
The Knights will be riding a wave of emotion following Alex McKinnons’ sickening injury which ended his career, while the Sharks welcome back Andrew Fifita who adds some much needed muscle to the pack.
It’s important that the Knights use McKinnon’s injury to spur them on, but they must be careful not to get too emotionally charged in this one. Cool heads are needed if they are to overcome a stubborn Sharks outfit who performed admirable against the competition frontrunners the St George Illawarra Dragons, last week.
It isn’t as if they have been playing poorly to start the season, despite the fact they sorely miss Jarrod Mullen’s passing and kicking game. Filling in for Mullen, Michael Dobson has been solid, setting up the opening try for Jeremy Smith with a neat grubber at the uprights, in their game against the Melbourne Storm last week.
The big plus for the Sharks is return of Andrew Fifita. He has been a monster for the sharks in both defence and attack and they have sorely missed the prop since his suspension for a shoulder charge in round one. His go forward and speed in playing the ball will allow Carney more room to move, who will be better for the full game he played last week, although Daniel Holdsworth needs to step up and offer more in attack.
Interchange hooker Isaac De Gois also returned for the Sharks last week, and showed his hunger for the game has not been dampened with a great performance, coming up with some big defensive plays. Expect more of this, as he looks to cement his place in the Cronulla side once again.
With so much riding on the game for both sides the affair will be close and hard-fought. The Knights should get home on this occasion after an emotional week for the club and in front of their home fans.
Knights by 6