2021 NRL Round 25 Preview, Broncos Vs Knights

Julian Vella previews this Saturday afternoon clash between the Brisbane Broncos and Newcastle Knights. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Date: Saturday September 4th, Time: 3:00pm AEST

Broncos Team

1. Tesi Niu
2. Corey Oates
3. Selwyn Cobbo
4. Herbie Farnworth
5. Xavier Coates
6. Anthony Milford
7. Albert Kelly
8. Ethan Bullemor
9. Jake Turpin
10. Payne Haas
11. Alex Glenn
12. Jordan Riki
13. Kobe Hetherington
14. Cory Paix
15. David Mead
16. Rhys Kennedy
17. TC Robati
18. Danny Levi
19. Brodie Croft
20. Jesse Arthars
21. Jamayne Isaako

Team Changes

IN: Jordan Riki , Corey Paix, Brodie Croft, Jesse Arthars, Jamayne Isaako
OUT: Thomas Flegler, Brendan Piakura

Knights Team

1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Enari Tuala
3. Kurt Mann
4. Bradman Best
5. Starford To’a
6. Jake Clifford
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. David Klemmer
9. Chris Randall
10. Sauaso Sue
11. Tyson Frizell
12. Brodie Jones
13. Connor Watson
14. Phoenix Crossland
15. Jirah Momoisea
16. Josh King
17. Jack Johns
18. Dominic Young
19. Pasami Saulo
20. Tex Hoy
21. Simi Sasagi

Team Changes

IN: Starford To’a, David Klemmer, Phoenix Crossland, Jack Johns, Dominic Young, Tex Hoy, Simi Sasagi
OUT: Hymel Hunt, Jacob Saifiti, Jaydney Brailey, Mitchell Barnett

Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski



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The second half of the 2021 NRL season has certainly gone a lot better for Kevin Walters and his young Brisbane side, although their results show that they picked up the same amount of wins in the first half of the season, their overall performances have increased as the season has gone on. After emphatically disposing of the Cowboys in Round 20, the Broncos have put in good displays against top eight sides the Knights, Roosters and Sharks, whilst they beat the Warriors in a high-quality affair in Round 23.

The Broncos had their chances last week against the Sharks and could have easily won that match if not for poor discipline. Young forwards Thomas Flegler and Brendan Piakura were sent to the sin bin for illegal tackles, and both will miss this week’s match through suspension, apart from that the Broncos have named an unchanged side, including a few players playing their final matches for the club.

Captain Alex Glenn will retire after this match after 13 seasons and 285 NRL games; all for his beloved Broncos, unfortunately for the New Zealand representative, his career at the Broncos didn’t deliver any premierships, but he has been a pillar of strength for the club during their toughest few seasons. Anthony Milford and Xavier Coates will also play their last games for the Broncos, for Coates he will move to the Melbourne Storm where he’s almost certain to become a star, whilst for Milford he will leave for South Sydney where he will look to rebuild his stuttering career.


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Like the Broncos; the Knights had an awful first half of the season where they were languishing down towards the bottom of the the ladder. At the halfway mark of the season Knights’ coach Adam O’Brien spoke about a “season reset” where his side; which had been struggling with injuries, would put their first half of the year behind them and focus on winning enough games in the back end of the year to qualify for the finals.

Mission accomplished for the Knights as they’ve now qualified for the finals; whilst also wrapping up a seventh placed finish for the second consecutive year. This is the first time since 2002-2003 that the Knights have made the finals two years in a row, a great achievement for the playing group, but also a sign of the clubs’ struggles in the past two decades.

With seventh spot confirmed, the Knights have decided to rest four players for this week’s clash, those players include key forwards Jacob Saifiti and Mitchell Barnett, along with co-captain Jayden Brailey and winger Hymel Hunt. This gives a few of the Knights’ squad players a chance for a run with winger Star To’a getting his first start since Round 13, whilst David Klemmer returns from suspension and Jack Johns gets a run off the bench.


The Broncos and Knights will face off at Suncorp Stadium for the second time within a month after the Knights were forced to play their ‘home game’ against Brisbane at the Broncos ‘home ground. Whilst the fear for Newcastle fans was that their season would be derailed when the competition was moved to Queensland; due to their poor record in the Sunshine State, the Knights have now won five-straight matches after drooping their first two against the Storm and Roosters since entering the Queensland bubble.

Despite never quite showing their best form throughout this run of victories, the Knights have proved to be the masters of closing out a tight win, their aggregate winning margin during these five victories is a mere 27 points, just over five points on average. This has come down to a mixture of both good defence, and struggling attack for the Knights, who are currently the second worst attacking side in the competition. The Knights’ struggles in attack is the reason why O’Brien has chosen, not to rest key players Kalyn Ponga, Jake Clifford or Mitchell Pearce in this clash, O’Brien knows his ‘spine’ need as much time together on the field to work on their combinations.

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Whilst the Knights have nothing to gain on paper in this clash after securing seventh place, O’Brien will be drumming into his players that momentum is key, and they’ll need to keep the ‘good vibes’ flowing, as they head into next week’s elimination final against either the Eels or Roosters. Although the Knights haven’t hit top form in their past month of football, the belief within the playing group that they can win any tight match will be growing due to the way they’ve been winning.

For the Broncos they will still believe they have plenty to play for in this clash, although they can’t finish any lower than 15th; the second worst in their proud history, but a win could see them finish above their Queensland rivals the Cowboys. But their main point of inspiration will be to send off captain Alex Glenn with a win, after failing to do so for club legend Darius Boyd in the final round of last season, the playing group will be committed to not failing again this season.

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The key to a Broncos’ win will likely be resting on the shoulders of another long serving player in his final Broncos appearance; that man is Anthony Milford. After suffering through the last three seasons where his from and commitment have been questioned constantly, Milford has finally found something close to his best form again in the past two matches. It’s of no surprise that the Broncos’ form has naturally lifted with the rise of Milford, but it’s all too little too late for the Broncos’ fans.

So, although this match has no bearing on the finals; or for the wooden spoon, both sides still have something to play for in this clash. The Knights will be looking to work on some combinations and continue building momentum, whilst for the Broncos they’re looking to send off a few players on a winning note. Newcastle will be hoping to get through this clash without any injuries, after suffering through many long- and short-term injuries this year, the Knights are close to full strength heading into the finals and will want to keep it that way.

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Newcastle will be looking to break a run of six straight final round losses after failing to win a season finale since their Round 26 win over the Dragons in 2014, their last match under Wayne Bennett. The Broncos have also been a run of last round losses, losing both their previous two season closing fixtures, coincidentally the last time they closed off a regular season with a win was also under the guidance of Wayne Bennett in 2018.


Without the weight of a ‘must win’ ultimatum for either side, it’s always tricky to know which side will in fact ‘show up’ on the day. The Knights’ players all know they’re playing a match of much greater significance next week, so subconsciously they won’t be as desperate to win. The Broncos have been improving every week and will know this is their last game for over five months, so they’ll leave nothing in the tank. An upset of sorts is definitely on the cards, but I’m still expecting the class of Ponga and Pearce to see the Knights home. Knights 1-12  

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