Julian Vella previews the early kickoff game on Friday night between the Gold Coast Titans and Newcastle Knights. This is what we have to look forward to.
Gold Coast Titans
On fire! That is the only way to describe the Titans’ last month of football, as last year’s wooden spooners have put together a run of four straight wins. They have beaten the Dragons, Bulldogs, Broncos, and Sea Eagles during their longest winning streak since 2014. Last week’s victory over Manly was their best performance of the season, as they laid on 42 points away from home.
Newcastle continued their up-and-down season as they also ran in 42 points against the hapless Dragons: 42 points was ironically the same amount of points they conceded the week before in a heavy loss to the Roosters. This last month, Newcastle have followed their trend of following up a big defeat with a big win; they will be hoping to avoid continuing this trend against the Titans this week.
Gold Coast Titans
Unsurprisingly, Justin Holbrook has named a near-identical team to the one that beat Manly last week: centre Brian Kelly is the only inclusion as he replaces Corey Thompson, with impressive rookie Treymain Spry moving to the wing. Jai Arrow has been named again on the bench in what will be his final game as a Titan before he leaves for South Sydney; Arrow might be hard to recognise as he shaved his ‘mullet’ hair cut off during the week. He had been growing his hair to raise money for the World’s Greatest Shave charity.
1. Alexander Brimson 2. Anthony Don 3. Brian Kelly 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Treymain Spry 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Moeaki Fotuaika 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Sam Stone 13. Tyrone Peachey 14. Tanah Boyd 15. Sam Lisone 16. Jai Arrow 17. Jai Whitbread 18. Darius Farmer 19. Corey Thompson 20. Phillip Sami 21. Nathan Peats
After a couple of late scratchings last week and another injury during the game, Knights’ coach Adam O’Brien has again been forced to make some changes to his side for this clash. Edrick Lee has been named after missing last week due to a personal matter, whilst Sione Mata’utia returns to the starting lineup after Lachlan Fitzgibbon went down with a hip flexor injury. But the big inclusion for the Knights is the return of boom rookie Bradman Best, who makes his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury in round 12.
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Chris Randall 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Brodie Jones 18. Josh King 19. Gehamat Shibasaki 20. Starford To’a 21. Jirah Momoisea
The Gold Coast will look to record their fifth consecutive victory with a win over the Knights on Friday; if they able to win it will equal their club record of five-straight, which they have achieved on two separate occasions: in 2008 and 2010.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Moeaki Fotuaika vs Daniel Saifiti
The battle between two of the game’s up-and-coming props in Moeaki Fotuaika and Daniel Saifiti will be the highlight of this encounter; both players have backed up their breakout seasons in 2019 with even better years in 2020.
The 20-year-old Fotuaika has once again led the Titans in running stats this year, averaging 144 metres per game off 13 hit-ups. He has also improved in defence with his tackling efficiency up over 92%, a vast improvement on last year.
Saifiti started the season on fire but has missed games due to an ongoing knee injury; despite missing the majority of the second half of the season ‘D-Saf’ has still put up great numbers. His numbers are very similar to that of Fotuaika’s as Saifiti has averaged 152 metres per game off 13 hit-ups whilst he’s tackling at 91.5% efficiency.
Saifiti was arguably the form prop in the competition prior to his injury in round nine against the Eels, and if he can regain that form he will undoubtedly retain his NSW jersey in the Origin series that follows the NRL season.
Fotuaika will also be hoping to take part in that series as he looks to secure his Origin debut for Queensland; the Maroons have suffered a host of injuries to possible forward options, so Fotuaika will look for one final big performance to win himself a spot in Kevin Walters’ side.
This game will be a tricky task for the finals-bound Newcastle Knights as they look to lockup a home semi final, as a loss means they will be nervously waiting the result of the following game between the Rabbitohs and Roosters. Despite the Titans having little to play for, they will no doubt come out firing in their last game of the season; they are on a four-game winning streak and are playing their best football in years. I expect this game to be close, but with so much more to play for, the Knights should be able to get the job done.
Date: Friday, September 25th.
Venue: CBUS Super Stadium, Gold Coast.
Kick-off: 6:00pm AEST.