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RD 9 MATCH PREVIEW: PENRITH PANTHERS VS NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Squads

Knights

1 Darius Boyd 2 James McManus 3 Dane Gagai 4 Joey Leilua 5 Akuila Uate 6 Jarrod Mullen 7 Tyrone Roberts 8 David Fa’alogo 9 Kurt Gidley (c) 10 Kade Snowden 11 Beau Scott 12 Robbie Rochow 13 Adam Cuthbertson Interchange 14 Adam Clydsdale 15 Korbin Sims 17 Chris Houston 18 Matt Hilder

Panthers

1 Matt Moylan 2 David Simmons 3 Dean Whare 4 Jamal Idris 5 Josh Mansour 6 Jamie Soward 7 Peter Wallace (c) 8 Nigel Plum 9 Kevin Kingston (c) 10 Brent Kite 11 Tyrone Peachey 12 Sika Manu 13 Adam Docker Interchange 14 James Segeyaro 15 Sam Mckendry 16 Matt Robinson 17 Jeremy Latimore 

Matt Robinson in, Elijah Taylor out

Matt Robinson returns to Penrith’s National Rugby League squad for the first time since July 13 last year when they face Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium this Sunday.  Robinson suffered a season ending broken neck which was likened to the one that saw Sam McKendry out earlier that year.  Speculation late this week is that the talented backrower is being linked with the Gold Coast Titans for 2015.

His inclusion is at the expense of Elijah Taylor who is out with a knee problem.

This is the injury update from the Panthers website.

ELIJAH TAYLOR: suffered a grade 3 medial tear of his knee during the Sharks game. He will be out for 4-5 weeks

TIM GRANT: suffered a calf strain at training. Will miss 2 weeks

DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK: suffered a stress fracture in his foot and will be out for a few weeks, pending progress in rehab

LEWIS BROWN: injured his pec in our round 6 clash against Souths. He will be out for another 2 weeks

WES NAIQAMA: Tore ligaments in his ankle in the NSW Cup team’s win over Wests Tigers. He is likely to be out for another 3 weeks

SHAUN SPENCE: Had surgery on his knee. He will be out for 3 weeks

GEORGE JENNINGS: Out for the season. He dislocated his elbow in our Auckland Nines quarter final and initially didn’t need surgery. But doctors recently reassessed ths situation and he’s gone under the knife to repair some damage.

Tyrone Peachey is named to start in the forward pack with the number eleven jumper, but I suspect that Ivan Cleary will play Robinson in the backrow from kick-off.

#RISEFORALEX

Since these two teams met in round one, Newcastle have had a horrible run.  Alex McKinnon’s injury in Melbourne was one of the saddest days for the club.  Since that AAMI Park incident, the Knights have been on an emotional roller coaster ride.  Their first win of the season against Cronulla was the week after the McKinnon injury, but have only managed to win on one other occasion despite going close last round against Canterbury.

Power winger Akuila Uate has been named to return to the side from an ankle problem.  Ex-Panthers Clint Newton (bicept, mid-season return) and Timana Tahu (knee, round 10-14) are still in the casualty ward.  Rookie winger Jake Mamo makes way for Uate.  With Zane Tetevano stood down by the club, David Fa’alogo moves into the front row.  Korbin Sims was to be named on the bench but is out suspended.

I have no doubt that Alex McKinnon is foremost in the thoughts of the players and fans of the club.  Believe me – these boys will lift this Sunday.

Dean Whare’s time to shine

There’s been plenty of conversations about the lack of scoring Penrith’s had all season.  Panther fans saw some very positive signs over the weekend.  One being Kiwi international Dean Whare.  He was one of their best in defeat against the Kangaroos.  Good ball skills including passing and the ‘tap-back’, Whare will have Dave Simmons on the outside of him this weekend.  We all know how dynamic this combination proved last season with Simmons ending up equal leading try scorer in the league.  They will match up against Joey Leilua and Akuila Uate.  Lucky for the Panthers that Uate will probably need some game time before he’s got match fitness.  I expect Penrith will target this side of the field.  Jamal Idris continued his good early season form in City v Country last weekend.  As he becomes more comfortable with the team structure Idris will become more of a potent weapon.

Docker an Origin bolter?

Let’s face it, New South Wales need a hitman in their team.  Paul Gallen is a warrior and will go close to playing a full eighty.  Greg Bird is a niggler.  But I think New South Wales are missing the guy who will put Queenslanders on their back and feeling pain.  Adam Docker over the next few weeks is playing for a New South Wales Origin spot.  He really needs to come out and play with plenty of energy this week.  Demonstrate that he is worthy of a Blues jumper.  Plenty of forwards have come and gone from the Blues side.  This is a perfect opportunity to reward Docker for the last couple of seasons and take a punt – he could just change the game.

Panthers record daunting in Newcastle

In round one Penrith got the better of Newcastle.  But heading to Hunter Stadium the Panthers won’t feel as comfortable about their chances even though we are in the “Win” cycle of the W-L sequence.

Newcastle lead the head-to-head record with 22 wins, 3 draws and Penrith winning on 14 occasions.  What’s interesting is the Hunter Stadium record.  Penrith have won 8, Newcastle 10.  The bad news, only two victories since 2007.  In 2007 Penrith won 46-12 when Michael Jennings and Frank Pritchard scored hat-tricks with Michael Gordon scoring twenty-two points.  Our last win came on April 5 2010 where the Panthers scored a miraculous 34-30 victory.  Lachlan Coote, Michael Jennings, Luke Lewis, Sam McKendry, Joseph Paulo and Adrian Purtell grabbing tries in the win.

Penrith will be keen to put an away win on the board as they have missed out in 2014 at Melbourne, Parramatta and Cronulla last start.

How the game should play out

It might be fifteenth place versus eighth on the table coming into the ninth week of the National Rugby League, but Newcastle will be looking to build on their last up effort over Canterbury where they went down by four.  The Alex McKinnon factor will lift this club on their home turf.  Newcastle will like their chances with Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts to dictate terms in the halves and feed the ball out to Boyd, McManus and Uate to create opportunities.  There’s some talent in the forward pack with Snowden, Scott and Rochow.  Whilst they may have attempted to play through the forwards in the last game between these two sides, I expect the Knights will revert to an attacking style game.  However, their defense may suffer.

For Penrith they too suffered a narrow loss at Cronulla last time out.  The forward pack looks stronger than the Knights with hard hitters in Nigel Plum and Origin hopeful Adam Docker in the starting line-up.  Sika Manu and Brent Kite have International experience.  And the interchange of McKendry, Segeyaro, Robinson and Latimore is more potent than the Knights lineup.  For Penrith to match Newcastle’s attacking game, they must be clever with the ball in attack and not let opportunities go wasted.  Jamie Soward has the kicking game and Peter Wallace has the playmaking skills.  Simmons, Moylan, Whare, Idris and Mansour need to be ready to convert any chances they get. 

The verdict

There will be plenty of points in this game but Penrith can’t let Newcastle get too far in front. I watched the Knights effort against Brisbane a few weeks back.  They were spirited for the first half, then Brisbane proved too strong.  If Penrith can get their noses ahead at the break, they might just come away with their first win in Newcastle since 2010.

VALE ROSS GIGG

Queensland Panthers send our condolences to the family of former Penrith Panthers player Ross Gigg.  Gigg played 110 games for the club between 1974 and 1984, scoring 31 tries.  Post-football Gigg was involved in the club as an assistant manager before moving to Perth to become the Western Australian Rugby League CEO.  More recently he was general manager of the Newcastle Harness Racing Club, ironically adjacent to Hunter Stadium where the Panthers will face Newcastle this weekend.  His life was cut short on Wednesday night as he passed away from a heart attack in his sleep at age 58.  May he rest in peace.



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