Knights v Broncos: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos
McDonald Jones Stadium
Wayne Bennett returns to Newcastle to take on the club still trying to recover from his tenure some three years ago.
It is no secret the Knights have struggled with results since the super coach headed back to Brisbane, with salary cap issues and a reliance on generation next affecting the club much sooner than they had ever imagined.
While the blame-game shouldn't be directed purely at the premiership-winning mentor, there is no doubt the contest will always add an extra piece of motivation for both the Knights and their fans.
Fan-favourite Nathan Ross has often spoken about when Bennett once told him he'd never be good enough to play first grade, and how it constantly keeps him fired up so keep a close eye on the flyer on Saturday night.
Ultimately, both sides have different reasons to chase victory this week and while the clash shapes as one-sided on paper, as is the case in rugby league – anything can happen.
Brisbane have enjoyed their final bye week in the lead up to the clash, and at this point of the season it was required as key men Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford continue to recover from injury.
Only six players remain in the Knights line-up that featured in their 53-0 defeat to the Broncos in April last year, while last week's heartbreaking loss to the Bulldogs has done them no favours.
Nathan Brown has named co-captain Sione Mata'utia for the clash despite undergoing minor surgery earlier on the week on an injured finger, while Dane Gagai is expected to back up should he get through Origin III unscathed after being named in the centres.
Englishmen Joe Wardle moves back to the bench with veteran-prop Mickey Paea into the reserves.
The Broncos have traditionally rested players after Origin and could do once more, especially given the hype surrounding the decider and physical battle expected.
Bennett has named a 22-man squad with Maroons trio Ben Hunt, Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire in the starting 13, while Anthony Milford is some chance of returning after being included on the reserves list.
Former player Korbin Sims will return to Newcastle for the first time since departing the club in January, while 21-year-old Jamayne Isaako has been named on the wing to make his NRL Telstra Premiership debut.
Why the Knights can win: Newcastle put in a complete performance against the Bulldogs for all but two minutes. Their scramble defence improved immensely in seven days and with only Gagai set to return from Origin III and against an injury-ravaged Broncos outfit at home, could be an outside chance. The Knights owe it to their fans after a poor performance on home turf last start against the Wests Tigers and with nothing to lose they'll want another improved showing.
Why the Broncos can win: Statistically the Broncos dominate Newcastle in every facet and up front should have no issues getting on the front foot. Bennett's side is second behind the Roosters in the Telstra Premiership for most metres gained averaging 1665 per game and they've played one less game than the Tricolours so far this season. In comparison the Knights are the worst in the competition and have struggled to make any inroads through the middle. Defensively the Broncos have also only conceded four tries in total during the final 10 minutes of games this year - the best of any side, while they're the third best at holding onto the ball.
 Telstra Premiership: Daniel Saifiti vs Korbin Sims
Tackles, All Run Metres, Hit Ups, Offloads.
The history: Played 46; Knights 13; Broncos 32; Drawn 1. The Broncos hold a dominant record over the Knights and have won nine of the last 11 contests since 2011. In the last five clashes between the two sides Brisbane have piled on an average of 41 points per game including a 53-0 thrashing last season. Corey Oates has scored seven tries from seven appearances, while Milford went over for a hat-trick the last time the two sides met.
What are the odds: The most one-sided betting game of the round, with Sportsbet taking 10 times the money on the Broncos. Despite Newcastle getting a big points start, 75 per cent of money in handicap betting is also on Brisbane. The Broncos 13-plus option is holding more money than all of the other options combined. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Adam Gee; Assistant referee: Chris James; Touch judges: Russell Turner and Chris Treneman; Review Officials: Bernard Sutton and Bryan Norrie.
Televised: Fox League – Live from 5.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: You just get the feeling the past three weeks Newcastle has suffered may just be the nail in their coffin for the season. Their resilience in 2017 has been much-improved on last year's effort, however against a Broncos side that from here on out will be pushing for a top-four finish, you'd imagine even with the prospect of Origin players missing they'll have no trouble putting on a show. Broncos by 20.