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2021 NRL Round One Preview, Knights Vs Bulldogs

Can the Bulldogs repeat their 2020 efforts at McDonald Jones Stadium against the Knights? Matt Attard takes a look at this first round clash.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Date: 11/3, Time: 6pm (local)

Knights Team

  1. Tex Hoy
  2. Starford To’a
  3. Enari Tuala
  4. Bradman Best
  5. Gehamat Shibasaki
  6. Kurt Mann
  7. Mitchell Pearce
  8. David Klemmer
  9. Jayden Brailey
  10. Daniel Saifiti
  11. Tyson Frizell
  12. Mitchell Barnett
  13. Connor Watson
  14. Sauaso Sue
  15. Jacob Saifiti
  16. Josh King
  17. Brodie Jones
  18. Hymel Hunt
  19. Pasami Saulo
  20. Jack Johns
  21. Simi Sasagi

Team Changes

IN: n/a
OUT: n/a

Bulldogs Team

  1. Corey Allan
  2. Nick Meaney
  3. Will Hopoate
  4. Nick Cotric
  5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
  6. Jake Averillo
  7. Kyle Flanagan
  8. Ofahiki Ogden
  9. Sione Katoa
  10. Jack Hetherington
  11. Adam Elliott
  12. Corey Waddell
  13. Josh Jackson
  14. Bradley Deitz
  15. Renouf Atoni
  16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner
  17. Dylan Napa
  18. Tuipulotu Katoa
  19. Chris Smith
  20. Brandon Wakeham
  21. Ava Seumanufagai

Team Changes

IN: n/a
OUT:
n/a

Referee: Ben Cummins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Knights

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Newcastle will begin their season without superstar Kalyn Ponga, workhorse back rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon, winger Edrick Lee and veteran five-eighth Blake Green.

Coupled with the off-season dramas surrounding Mitchell Pearce you could expect a neglectful Knights faithful, but there’s no doubt McDonald Jones Stadium will be packed to cheer on their team.

There’s a lot to be said about a side with their backs against the wall but it would be in the Bulldogs best interest not to discount a side that still includes Pearce, Bradman Best, David Klemmer, new signing Tyson Frizell and the Saifiti brothers.

2021 Knights Season Preview

Bulldogs

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New year, new Bulldogs. Trent Barrett has named almost all of the club’s new recruits, with Queensland Origin fullback Corey Allen in the number one. Nick Cotric will start in the centres and Kyle Flanagan in the number seven, not to mention Jack Hetherington pipping Dylan Napa for a starting spot in the absence of the suspended Luke Thompson.

The big shock is former school teacher and hooking understudy to Damien Cook – Bradley Deitz. He has scored a spot on the bench with Jeremy Marshall-King failing to overcome an injury. His trial form was superb and at 26 years old could be the attacking spark the Bulldogs have missed out of dummy half for so long.

2021 Bulldogs Season Preview

PREVIEW

Trial form is rarely anything to go by, but the Bulldogs fielded a strong side for 60 minutes in their only trial against the Sharks and looked to retain the passion and heart that was so commendable in a horror 2020.

While all of their new signings and style of play will no doubt lift them off the bottom of the ladder, fans need to remember that things will take time. They’re still a young side with plenty to work on and it may take some time before they cement solid combinations and score their first win of the season. Or, they could come out of the blocks buoyed by their new crew.

For the Knights, it would be foolish for anyone to write them off simply because of a raft of injuries. Ponga, Lee and Fitzgibbon are big losses but they still have a formidable forward pack, experience and spark where it counts.

They’ve flown under the radar compared to the Bulldogs, they play from home and they’re not settled after issues surrounding their now re-signed halfback and former captain.

KEY STAT

The Bulldogs won the only scrap between the clubs in 2020, a wet and miserable 18-12 victory – a score line that flattered the Knights. In 2019, the Bulldogs also won by a six point margin, after a Magic Round win by Newcastle. The visitors don’t mind facing the Knights, especially away from home. In fact, Newcastle haven’t beaten the Bulldogs at McDonald Jones Stadium since 2013 – almost eight years ago.

PREDICTION

This will be a bit of a tester for the Bulldogs, who played only one trial match and have a few players carrying injuries into the contest. The Knights seem that bit more settled despite a big trial loss to the Storm and a few injuries.

Bulldogs by 10.

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