2023 NRL Preview Round 4: Knights Vs Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the Sunday afternoon clash between Newcastle and Canberra.



Newcastle Knights Vs Canberra Raiders
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Date: Sunday March 26, 4:05pm


Knights: 1. Lachlan Miller 2. Hymel Hunt 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Tyson Gamble 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Leo Thompson 11. Brodie Jones 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Jack Hetherington 16. Mathew Croker 17. Jack Johns 18. Dylan Lucas 19. Adam Clune 20. Thomas Cant 21. Enari Tuala 22. Tyson Frizell

Raiders: 1. Sebastian Kris 2. James Schiller 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Harley Smith-Shields 5. Albert Hopoate 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Harawira-Naera 14. Tom Starling 15. Pasami Saulo 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Emre Guler 18. Matt Frawley 19. Brad Schneider 20. Trey Mooney 21. Semi Valemei 22. Peter Hola

Referee: Gerard Sutton

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While it’s only Round 4, Newcastle and Canberra have enough combined injuries/suspensions to fill a full season of a popular medical drama.

Newcastle are missing: Kalyn Ponga (head knock, TBC), Tyson Frizell (ankle, TBC), Adam Elliott (groin, Round 6-8), Jacob Saifiti (suspended, Round 8), Simi Sasagi (shoulder, indefinite), Krystian Mapapalangi (shoulder, indefinite).

Canberra are missing: Jordan Rapana (suspension, Round 5), Nick Cotric (hamstring, Round 6-8), Xavier Savage (broken jaw, Round 7), Ata Mariota (broken hand, Round 8-10), Danny Levi (jaw, Round 10-12), Adrian Trevilyan (shoulder/knee, mid-season).

Despite these long lists, both Newcastle and Canberra showed plenty of fight in Round 3.

The Knights stuck with the in-form Dolphins for 70 minutes – and only trailed 26-20 after The Dolphins’ Felise Kaufusi was sin binned. But two tries to Jamayne Isaako gave the visitors a comfortable 36-20 win. Rugby Sevens convert Lachlan Miller scored two tries for Newcastle, including a 65-metre run off a 20-metre tap, showing off the speed honed in Rugby’s shorter format.

After a horrible loss to The Dolphins, Canberra weren’t expected to challenge the in-form Sharks, but – in typical Raiders fashion – they thrived as underdogs. A double to Corey Horsburgh gave them a 24-10 lead early in the second half. Then – also in typical Raiders fashion – they almost blew it. Jesse Ramien and Briton Nikora scored to get the Sharks within a try and Raiders fans got nervous, fearing yet another ‘Faiders’ collapse. But this time Canberra hung on.

Newcastle have been Canberra’s bogey team recently – even though Canberra won both games last year, they had to work hard. The first win came in Round 15 at Bruce, with a 78th minute Hudson Young miracle play getting Canberra home 20-18 after wasting another lead (14-6 at half-time). In Round 23, Canberra travelled to Newcastle with their season on the line. When Newcastle led 22-8 at half-time, the Raiders looked done. But tries to Sebastian Kris (his second for the day), Young, and Jack Wighton secured a 28-22 win. With Brisbane imploding ahead of them, Canberra then smashed Manly and the Wests Tigers to secure a finals spot. Before that, Newcastle beat Canberra three times in 2020-2021: 34-18 at Campbelltown, 24-16 at Wagga Wagga, and 34-24 at Lang Park.

There’s a couple of huge inclusions for Canberra: Papali’i and Zac Woolford. This sees a return to the hooker pairing of Woolford and Starling – a combination that worked well for the Raiders last year. And Papali’i’s experience and class was badly missed during the close losses to North Queensland and The Dolphins.

For Newcastle, Daniel Saifiti has been named despite suffering a shoulder injury last week, Jayden Brailey is back from a head knock, while Dominic Young has been dropped after a nightmare game against The Dolphins. And no word if/when Ponga will return.

So, how will this game play out? With both sides missing so many key players, it could go either way. The Raiders will either bumble home to an unconvincing win or completely fall apart as the Knights rally in-front of their passionate home fans – Miller and Bradman Best (who has form against Canberra) could be the matchwinners if this happens. Somehow, Canberra will find a way to win.


Raiders 5, Knights 5


Raiders by two points.

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