Date: Monday 25th May 2015
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Kick-Off: 7:00pm AEDT
Knights: 1. Dane Gagai, 2. James McManus, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Kurt Gidley ©, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Tyler Randell, 10. David Fa’aolo, 11. Joseph Tapine, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith, 14. Chad Redman, 15. Chris Houston, 16. Korbin Sims, 17. Jack Stockwell.
Coach – Rick Stone
Broncos: 1. Jordan Kahu, 2. Daniel Vidot, 3. Jack Reed, 4. Dale Copley, 5. Lachlan Maranta, 6. Anthony Milford, 7. Ben Hunt, 8. Jarrow Wallace, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Adam Blair, 11. Alex Glenn, 12. David Stagg, 13. Jo Ofahengaue, 14. Joe Boyce, 15. Francis Molo, 16. Corey Oates, 17. Kodi Nikorima.
Coach – Wayne Bennett
The Super Coach Wayne Bennett makes his return to Newcastle with a Broncos side tracking as good as any other in the competition, to take on a Knights unit that is struggling to capitalise on their early season exploits.
The Broncos currently sit third on the NRL ladder, but sharing the same seven win three loss record as the two sides above them. Their season hit a speedbump last round however against their neighbourhood rivals the Cowboys who put them in their place 31-20.
The Knights stormed out of the gate as one of the hottest teams in the competition through the first month, but followed up their four week unbeaten run with five straight losses. Finally, the Knights got themselves back on track last round defeating the Tigers 22-12 to bring their record to five and five, they currently sit tenth on the ladder, but share the same record as the fifth placed Roosters.
As has customarily been the case, the Broncos have made a significant contribution to the Queensland Origin cause. Darius Boyd, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, Josh McGuire and Matt Gillett will all miss the contest to represent their state two nights later, the Knights meanwhile lose just the one troop in Beau Scott. They are however still without the services of their best half Jarrod Mullen who is nursing a foot injury.
While the Broncos are without several of their big name talents, the structure of their spine hasn’t been too disturbed. Ben Hunt, Anthony Milford and Andrew McCullough all still remain, as does Jordan Kahu who began the year at fullback for the Broncos before a combination of injury and the return of Darius Boyd forced him out of that role. They’ve taken significant hits in their forward pack, but there’s some exciting players who are getting more of an opportunity this week, in particular Jo Ofahengaue who will start in the 13 jersey.
The Knights picture in those key positions isn’t as rosy. Dane Gagai is a magnificent player but has only just received the number one jersey. Kurt Gidley has moved to six due to Mullen’s injury, he’s out the door to the UK at the end of the season, his halves partner Tyrone Roberts has been struggling for form, and their hooker Tyler Randell is yet to play ten games in first grade. They may have a sparkling backline, much more star studded than the Broncos backs, and they pack some punch up front, but the difference in those key positions, as part of a Broncos side that has been strong all season, should be able to at least keep this respectable despite the number of players unavailable for Brisbane.
Prediction: Broncos to cover the +5.5 point line.