Julian Vella previews this Saturday night clash between two side bound for finals football in season 2020. This is what we have to look forward to.
The weather is getting warmer, which means finals football is just around the corner, albeit a little later in the year than usual. But this hasn’t worried the Roosters or affected their run into the semis: Trent Robinson’s side are almost at full health and are timing their run perfectly as they attempt to win their third straight premiership. After their loss to the Storm at the SCG three weeks ago, the Boys from Bondi have looked unstoppable after a treble of big wins.
After looking like a long and hard season had finally caught up with them two weeks ago when they were humiliated by the Warriors in Tamworth, the Knights defied the critics and put the Sharks to the sword in what was possibly their best performance of the season. Many thought the Knights’ season was ready to unravel, much like it had done last season, but the new grit installed by former Roosters’ assistant coach Adam O’Brien seems to have worked a treat in Newcastle.
The Roosters are almost at full strength now and look to be once again the strongest team on paper; with only Victor Radley and Sam Verrills missing, Robinson has been able to name an imposing side. Veteran forward Mitchell Aubusson is again named on the reserves, along with young hooker Freddy Lussick, who was ultra-impressive in his 80 minute effort last week against the Raiders. Lussick has been replaced by club co-captain Jake Friend, although he may be a late inclusion with doubts Friend can go the distance.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Sitili Tupouniua 13. Isaac Liu 14. Nat Butcher 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Angus Crichton 17. Sonny Bill Williams 18. Poasa Faamausili 19. Mitchell Aubusson 20. Freddy Lussick 21. Ryan Hall.
The biggest talking going into this match is the decision by Knights’ coach O’Brien to rest three players from this match, most importantly they’ve decided to rest Kalyn Ponga, who scored a hat-trick last week. O’Brien has come under heavy criticism for resting Ponga in such a game like this, with some suggesting the Knights have conceded defeat already. Hymel Hunt and Mitchell Barnett – who is carrying a sternum injury – have also been rested, but in their case they’ve been replaced by Edrick Lee and Daniel Saifiti, who are returning from injury. Tex Hoy replaces Ponga and he will be looking to have a big game and replicate his last performance when deputising at fullback, where he starred against the Panthers in round three.
1. Tex Hoy 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Starford To’a 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Daniel Saifiti 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones 18. Sione Mata’utia 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Tautau Moga 21. Chris Randall
It could be a long day at the office for the Knights against a rampant Roosters attack which leads the league in all the major attacking stats. First for all the point-scoring charts along with line breaks and try assists, the Roosters’ attack has been on fire in 2020.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves vs David Klemmer
Whilst this game has been robbed of its marquee match-up between State of Origin fullbacks Kalyn Ponga and James Tedesco, there are still a host of interesting battles to be played out along the park, including the battle between the two forward leaders, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves of the Roosters and the Knights’ David Klemmer.
Despite both wearing the number eight jersey and being the leaders of their respective packs, these two tyros go about their work in different yet effective ways. Klemmer is a no frills or fuss new-age prop who gets through a mountain of work without much fan fare, and will consistently rack up over 200 run metres and 40 tackles per game. He has now also brought a new a facet to his game, an offload, and he now leads the competition with 41 offloads this season; he also leads the league in post-contact metres.
Whilst JWH doesn’t come close to Klemmer in the numbers game, he makes his impact on the result in other ways that can’t be measured on a stats sheet. The Kiwi international is a throw-back prop from past generations where he still looks to win his battles by brute force and aggression, rather than offloads and post-contact metres. He looks to impose himself on his opposition player and isn’t afraid to ‘rough up’ the opposing play-makers if they start to get too comfortable.
Newcastle’s pack, including Klemmer, came under some criticism last week for not protecting Ponga after the Sharks targeted the star Knights’ play-maker. The fact now that O’Brien has come out in media and said he is resting Ponga due to him being targeted by the opposition coming in the same week they face the Roosters and JWH is no coincidence. JWH was infamously suspended last season after one too many cheap shots on the Knights’ fullback, and whilst O’Brien said he is protecting his player, he might also be sending a message to Klemmer and his fellow forwards.
It looked a tough ask for the Knights before the news they were resting players, but now it looks almost an impossible task for the Novocastrians. Last season in the corresponding fixture the Roosters ran in a cricket score at the SCG against the Knights; this match has a similar feel about it and Newcastle will know it’s going to take a big effort to cause an upset. Newcastle will look at this game as a ‘free hit’ as they’re not expected to win; as long as they win their next two matches, this result won’t effect their final standings. The Roosters look to be hitting top form and had a host of big performers last week; captain Boyd Corner showed why he is still the leader of this side, showing great courage and toughness last week.
Date: Saturday, September 12th
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Moore Park
Kick-off: 7:35pm, AEST