Julian Vella previews the final match of Round 21 as the Wests Tigers host the embattled Newcastle Knights at Campbelltown Stadium. This is what we have to look forward to.
Wests Tigers Vs Newcastle Knights
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
Date: Sunday July 31, 4:05pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Tigers: 1. Daine Laurie 2. Brent Naden 3. Starford To’a 4. Asu Kepaoa 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Adam Doueihi 7. Jock Madden 8. James Tamou 9. Fa’amanu Brown 10. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Alex Seyfarth 12. Kelma Tuilagi 13. Fonua Pole 14. Zane Musgrove 15. Austin Dias 16. Thomas Freebairn 17. Tyrone Peachey 18. Junior Tupou 19. Jake Simpkin 20. Brandon Tumeth 21. James Roberts 22. Justin Matamua
The big team news coming out of the Tigers this week was the season-ending injury for Jackson Hastings after his leg was broken by a Patrick Carrigan ‘hip-drop’ tackle. Hastings has been the Tigers’ best player this year, and has taken up the responsibility as the on-field leader.
His omission brings rookie Fonua Pole to the starting line-up this week for his run-on debut. Pole has been a shining light in recent weeks since his introduction to the side by interim coach Brett ‘Noddy’ Kimmorley. Another rookie (Austin Dias) will take his place on the bench replacing Pole; the New Zealand-born Dias will make his third NRL appearance.Embed from Getty Images
Knights: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Enari Tuala 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Dominic Young 6. Anthony Milford 7. Jake Clifford 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Brodie Jones 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Simi Sasagi 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Mathew Croker 18. Jack Johns 19. Jirah Momoisea 20. Adam Clune 21. Kurt Mann 22. Hymel Hunt
Whilst the omission of Hastings was expected, the Knights decided to throw out an unexpected surprise by leaving out their best player for season 2022, with David Klemmer out of their 22-man squad. The club decided to release a statement saying Klemmer had been showed a ‘show cause notice’ for an on-field incident.
This all came on the back of rumours circulating the day before that Klemmer was possibly looking at a loan-move to Parramatta. That deal never went through, but it only added to the media cyclone that followed where it was even suggested Klemmer might be sacked. Other than Klemmer’s omission, the Knights welcome back Bradman Best from his latest injury; his return pushes Simi Sasagi to the bench.
Referee: Chris Sutton
The Tigers’ win over the high-flying Broncos was much-needed: it not only delivered Kimmorley his first win as a NRL coach and broke a seven-game losing streak, but it also helped ease some of the pain from the previous week’s ‘robbery’ against the Cowboys. It had been a week of anger and high emotion for the heart-break club of the NRL, as they were well and truly on the end of an awful sequence of referring decisions on the final play of that match. But to his credit, Noddy picked his team up as they delivered one of the upsets of the year.
Whilst the Tigers were the feel-good story of the week, there was nothing to feel good about for the Newcastle Knights following their dismal display at home against the Bulldogs. The Knights have now lost eight of their 10 home games this year, with all of those losses being double-digit defeats. Coach Adam O’Brien came under huge scrutiny for the side’s recent performances and his poor choice of words when referring to his involvement in four straight grand final appearances as an assistant coach. But this was just an appetiser for what was to become a four-course menu of the week from hell for the Knights.Embed from Getty Images
The fiasco that surrounded Klemmer, both in regard to the potential Eels’ loan and show-cause notice, only helped heap more misery on the Knights’ season: they currently sit last in both attack and defence, and are staring down the barrel of yet another wooden spoon if they can’t find a way to lift themselves this week. The Knights headed into this season talking up their chances to progress from a first week finals team to a top four contender; they now look like a team struggling with the reality that this wasn’t quite the case.
The Tigers are now hot on the Knights’ heels as they also try to avoid the wooden spoon; Wests are now on 10 competition points, but with a much better for-and-against, and a victory on Sunday will elevate them above the hapless Knights. Although they are in much better form that the Knights, it isn’t a forgone conclusion they will take the points at Campbelltown; without Hastings the whole dynamic of the team changes, and with Pole playing at lock, they will have to alter their plans as he doesn’t behold the same ball playing skills that of Hastings.Embed from Getty Images
To help lift the burden of not having Hastings, the Tigers will look to halfback Jock Madden, a former Knights’ junior, to provide that guidance around the park and put the polish on the end of their sets and attacking plays. Madden is off contract at season’s end and will be looking again to put his case forward for a new contract with the Tigers, and an assurance he will be the club’s starting No.7 going forward. There’s another ex-Knight that could come back to haunt his former club, that being centre Starford To’a. The young and powerful To’a was seen as a very promising talent coming through the grades at Newcastle, but was offloaded earlier this season, as the club made room for Edrick Lee.
The man charged with stopping To’a from scoring in his third consecutive game will be Bradman Best. Best and To’a would have played lower grades together and also some first grade, and they both made their debuts in late 2019 for the Knights. Best ironically made his debut in Round 23 against the Tigers and at Campbelltown Stadium. In another irony, the Knights headed into that clash in a bad run of form and with their coach at the time Nathan Brown’s job under threat. On that night, the Knights put in one of the club’s worst ever performances that ended Brown’s tenure at the Knights. Will they repeat history and turn in another stinker which results in their coach losing his job?Embed from Getty Images
The Knights don’t historically enjoy the trip down the M1 onto the M2, then over the M7 to Campbelltown Stadium to face the Tigers. They have only won three from their nine meetings at that stadium, although the Knights did enjoy a couple of good performances in early 2020 in the rearranged COVID-19 competition where they drew with the Panthers and comprehensively beat the Raiders.
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