The Run Home: Knights

How they stand: Now focused on avoiding the wooden spoon, the Knights are surprisingly still mathematically a chance to make the finals although they would have to overcome very unlikely odds to do so. Winning their first four games of the season, the Knights looked like world beaters but have only won twice since – way back in Round 10 and last weekend against the Gold Coast.  

Now having lost 11 of their past 13 games, including a six-game losing streak leading into last week's game against the Titans, the Knights currently sit at 14th on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder. Things won't get any easier either. With only two home games to come in their final seven matches, Newcastle have to take on top-eight teams in South Sydney, Melbourne, the Bulldogs and the Roosters – with the former two to be played away from Hunter Stadium – to see out the year. Take into account further road trips to Kogarah, Penrith and Campbelltown and you can put a fork in any hope of a Newcastle finals berth.

Remaining fixtures: 
Round 20: v Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium, 7:30pm Saturday 25th June.
Round 21: v Dragons at Jubilee Oval, 2pm, Sunday 2nd August.
Round 22: v Roosters at Hunter Stadium, 4pm, Sunday 9th August.
Round 23: v Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium, 3pm, Saturday 15th August.
Round 24: v Storm at AAMI Park, 7pm, Monday 24th August.
Round 25: v Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday 29th August.
Round 26: v Panthers at Pepper Stadium, 3pm, Saturday 5th September.

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Key clash: While their win over the Titans helped the cause, the Knights are still likely to be playing to avoid the wooden spoon when they face the Wests Tigers in Round 23. The game is set to echo last year's wooden spoon "decider" between the Raiders and Sharks late in the season, with Cronulla coming unstuck on that occasion. A win here is essential if Newcastle are to avoid a bottom-of-the-table finish.

 

Key player: Having made his return from a serious toe injury in Round 18 after a 10-week absence, Jarrod Mullen holds the key to Newcastle getting off the foot of the ladder. He was the key to Newcastle's 28-point win over the Titans – the Knights' best performance in two months. The five-eighth will need to remain playing his best if the club are to finish the year on a high. 

Injury report: Finally overcoming a horror injury toll which has seen halves Mullen and Tyrone Roberts as well as veterans Jeremy Smith, Chris Houston, David Fa'alogo all miss multiple games, the Knights aren't travelling too badly in the injury department nowadays. Only missing Adam Clydsdale (shoulder), Jack Stockwell (biceps) and Robbie Rochow (arm) currently, the Knights will have to focus on getting Dane Gagai (heart), Sione Mata'utia and Tyler Randell (both concussions) fit for this weekend's clash against South Sydney.

NRL.com predicted finish: 14th.

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Ladder Predictor: Who will make the Top 8?