Schick Hydro Preview: Manly Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights
The first of the two Friday games pits sixth against 16th as the Sea Eagles host a Newcastle team high on enthusiasm but low on results.
It's a potential banana-skin game for Manly, who faded badly last week in a match they should have put away much earlier against an under-manned Canberra. The Knights are coming off a massive loss to a slick Storm outfit but prior to the Round 12 bye had a strong game against Penrith and a win over Canberra.
The Sea Eagles sadly lost bullocking winger Jorge Taufua to a season-ending ACL injury last week. Jono Wright has been named to start in Taufua's place but have named star fullback Tom Trbojevic in the reserves in the hopes that he will be able to recover from double knee and ankle issues in time to face Newcastle.
Knights coach Nathan Brown has named Josh King to return to the bench in place of Sam Stone, with Mitch Barnett to start and Luke Yates dropping to the pine.
Why Sea Eagles can win: Trent Barrett's unfancied squad continues to defy predictions in 2017, banking win after win in games where plenty haven't expected them to. One of the biggest factors is that two of last season's underperformers – captain Daly Cherry-Evans and centre Dylan Walker – are in peak form. 'DCE' is benefiting from five-eighth Blake Green providing balance in the halves plus the likes of Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake giving him a better platform than last year. Walker, quite simply, is back in his preferred position of right centre and enjoying footy again. Their combination with each other, in particular, is turning to a fruitful one on Manly's right edge. In the past two games Walker (three tries, one try assist) and Cherry-Evans (one try, four line-break assists, two try assists) have been enjoying some red-hot form.
Why Knights can win: Don't write off the determined Knights. They are on the improve, with young halves Brock Lamb and Jaelen Feeney getting to know each others' games better by the week. If the Knights are to win they'll need to match the impact of Taupau and co in the middle and impressive young prop Daniel Saifiti will be a key man in that area. Saifiti has averaged 130 metres over the past five games and even in last week's debacle against the managed 85 metres and an impressive four offloads. The only Origin star in the team, Dane Gagai, laid on both his team's try against the Storm last week and busted eight tackles – he'll be another the Knights will look to as they try to drag a result out of this one.
 Telstra Premiership: Martin Taupau vs Daniel Saifiti
Offloads, Hit Ups, All Run Metres, Tackles.
The history: Sea Eagles v Knights: Played 47; Sea Eagles 30; Knights 17. The Knights haven't taken a win away from Brookvale since 2006 and haven't beaten Manly at all since 2012 with six straight losses since.
What are the odds: The most one-sided betting game of the round with Sportsbet taking 92 per cent of the money on Manly. The Sea Eagles are extremely popular in multis over the round and there is more money on them to win 13+ than all of the other winning margin options combined. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Jon Stone; Touch judges: Russell Turner and Jarrod Cole; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live from 6pm.
NRL.com predicts: We give the Knights a slim outside chance but the safe tip is certainly with the home side – Manly by more than two converted tries.