Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans preview
The Knights and Titans aren't in the best of form. Sitting at last and third-last respectively, each team will be out to reverse their fortunes on Saturday afternoon.
Newcastle has lost 11 of their past 12 games, meaning star recruit back-rower Tariq Sims has won just once in Newcastle colours in his dozen appearances.
While the Titans aren't going as bad, losing their past three including their 38-6 loss to the lowly placed Sea Eagles on Monday night.
This game has the potential to be a high scoring affair especially when it comes to tries conceded – the Knights (69) and Titans (70) occupy the two highest rungs of this particular stat.
Each team will welcome back one veteran enforcer this weekend. Greg Bird will return from an eight-match suspension in place of Lachlan Burr while Beau Scott returns from a week long absence following his suspension in Origin III to replace 18th man Paterika Vaivai.
Watch out Knights: Unlike many of his teammates against Manly, Dave Taylor was a man on a mission. The first one to meet Brett Stewart under the high ball on several occasions, Taylor was duly rewarded for his efforts by coach Neil Henry having been named to start this week. It's an astute promotion too given Taylor was a one-man wrecking ball the last time he was in Newcastle.
Watch out Titans: With Newcastle halfback Tyrone Roberts signalling this week he wasn't simply going to "roll over" for incoming 2016-Knight Trent Hodkinson, expect the local junior to step up at the backend of the season. Making his return in Newcastle's last start loss to Canberra after a six week absence, Roberts will be hoping to put forward a strong performance alongside Jarrod Mullen.
Key Match-Up: Jeremy Smith v Greg Bird: With Bird returning from an eight-game suspension this weekend and with Smith just one game back from a long-term sternum injury, the battle of the veterans will be sure to heat up Hunter Stadium. With Joey Tapine, Sam Mataora, Agnatius Paasi and Nathaniel Peteru sure to back up their respective statesmen, you can be sure Smith and Bird will delve into the nitty-gritty side of things.
The History: Played 13; Knights 8, Titans 5. In their brief history, the Knights have only once failed (from four attempts) to back up one win with another against the Gold Coast. Considering they left it late to sink the Titans 20-18 back in Round 3, the ball is in Newcastle's court for this one.
What are the Odds: The Titans are almost friendless in betting, and the Knights have shortened as the week has worn on. Newcastle to win 13-plus has been the most popular winning margin with Sportsbet. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: David Munro. Sideline Officials: Rick MacFarlane and Rohan Best. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Steve Folkes.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 (Live) – 5:30pm
The Way We See It: Something has to give with Newcastle. In a weekend where the NRL celebrates Heritage Round, surely the Knights can get themselves up for this one. With the wooden spoon favoured to be theirs by season's end, coach Rick Stone won't have to go to great lengths to motivate his crew for this one –Newcastle by eight points.