Andrew Pelechaty previews the round five opener between Newcastle and Manly Warringah…
Newcastle Knights Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Date: Thursday April 7, 7:50pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Enari Tuala 6. Jake Clifford 7. Adam Clune 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Chris Randall 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Brodie Jones 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Leo Thompson 17. Jirah Momoisea 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Tex Hoy 21. Edrick Lee 22. Jaron Purcell 23. Dylan Lucas 24. Brayden Musgrove
After a strong start to the season, Newcastle have come back to the pack with two straight losses to Penrith and Cronulla-Sutherland. While they were fairly competitive against Penrith (who, along with Melbourne, seem light years ahead of the rest of the NRL), they were disappointing against the Sharks, losing 18-0. While Kalyn Ponga is back, the constant rumours about his future (will he go to the Dolphins?) must be distracting.
The Knights will need to put that noise behind them and keep winning before their big clashes against Parramatta (round seven) and Melbourne (round eight), otherwise they could lose touch with the eight as the season approaches the halfway mark.
Newcastle stay unchanged for this Thursday night clash, with Jacob Saifiti returning to the run-on side.Embed from Getty Images
Sea Eagles: 1. Tolutau Koula 2. Jason Saab 3. Christian Tuipulotu 4. Morgan Harper 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau’atu 12. Andrew Davey 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Dylan Walker 15. Karl Lawton 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Ethan Bullemor 19. Toafofoa Sipley 20. Brad Parker 21. Jorge Taufua 22. Kurt De Luis 23. Kaeo Weekes 24. Jake Trbojevic
Similar to their huge 2021 run, Manly are starting to warm up after a slow start, squeezing past Canterbury-Bankstown in the wet and belting Canberra at Mudgee. Daly Cherry-Evans was the key part of those wins: he kicked the game-sealing field goal against the Bulldogs, and – like a fast bowler bouncing a scared tailender into oblivion – used his masterful kicking game to toy with the disappointing Raiders. After being monstered by Penrith and the Sydney Roosters, Turbo is starting to click as well, scoring the try that broke Canberra’s spirit last weekend…that was until he was ruled out for a month (at least) with a medial tear. Manly have been dead ducks without Turbo recently: can they keep it together for the next month without him?
Manly have a nice few weeks ahead: Newcastle, Gold Coast, Cronulla-Sutherland, South Sydney, Wests Tigers, and Brisbane. Even without Turbo, Manly should win most of these games, setting themselves up for a big fortnight against Parramatta and Melbourne in rounds 11 and 12.
Tolutau Koula replaces Turbo, while Christian Tuipulotu is named at centre. Brad Parker is on the extended bench with Ethan Bullemor the 18th Man.
Referee: Ashley Klein
While Newcastle enjoy an extra day’s preparation for this game (and will enjoy the comforts of home), they’ll need to be switched on to beat a Manly side who are starting to click again. While the Sea Eagles were disappointing in the first two rounds, they were playing Penrith and the Roosters, which is a tough start for anyone. Though it’s not a concern right now, Manly will know they need to lift against the competition’s elite. And learn to play without Turbo in the short-term: starting against Newcastle.Embed from Getty Images
The obvious one is the iconic 1997 ARL Grand Final (one of the greatest grand finals in Australian rugby league history). Manly had dominated in 1995 and 1996 (losing to the “Sydney” Bulldogs in ’95 and beating St George in ’96), and made their third straight decider in 1997 (yes, yes, it was a split competition, but you can only play what’s infront of you). We all know how this story ends, with Darren Albert scoring the winning try for Newcastle’s first premiership and ending Manly’s mid-90s window of domination.
Sea Eagles by six.
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