Knights v Storm: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Newcastle Knights v Melbourne Storm
McDonald Jones Stadium
Saturday 19 August, 3.00pm

Newcastle's finals hopes ended weeks ago, but they play the biggest game of their year against the premiership-leading Storm on Saturday afternoon.

Nathan Brown's men come into the clash with a sense of excitement and energy after winning three on the bounce, including the top eight-bound Eels, plus the Dragons and Warriors. They'll treat this game as their biggest test of the year and a chance to knock off the premiership favourites in front of an invigorated home crowd.

The Storm will just want to get the job done as efficiently – and injury-free – as possible. They'll get help from five-eighth Cameron Munster, who returns from a two-week injury layoff, and possibly second-rower Tohu Harris who is on an extended bench. The Kiwi international last played in Round 18 before suffering a shoulder injury.

Newcastle has an unchanged line-up. Mickey Paea, Chanel Mata'utia and Brendan Elliott come into the reserves.

Why the Knights can win: The Knights are enjoying an upward surge. Three wins in a row, but to beat the (probable) minor premiers? It's not out the question for a team that brings energy, enthusiasm and a sense of enjoyment to their football. Trent Hodkinson continues to steer the team around nicely, with young five-eighth Brock Lamb benefiting from more game time. Dane Gagai sparkles at fullback with the young propping duo of Daniel Saifiti and Josh King giving good service.

Why the Storm can win: As they showed last week against the Roosters, the visitors have the mental strength to win even when hope looks gone. The Storm is a settled side, and Munster's return will add defensive starch and attacking swagger. They are too well coached to harbour any feelings of complacency. They'll treat it as a must-win. Worrying for the opposition, they can score big points but also lead the competition for points conceded. 

 


The history: Played 37; Knights 15; Storm 22. Newcastle has a decent record against Melbourne, but the Storm have won the past three clashes (including a last-start 40-12 demolition at AAMI Park) and three of the last five at McDonald Jones Stadium.

What are the odds: The big price for the Knights has been nibbled away at by Sportsbet punters and they've firmed from their opening price as a result. That said, there's nearly double the investment on the Storm to continue on their winning way. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au

Match officials: Referee: Adam Gee. Assistant Referee: Jon Stone. Touch judges: Jason Walsh and David Ryan. Review official: Ben Galea. Senior RO: Jared Maxwell.

Televised: Fox League – Live from 3.00pm.

NRL.com predicts: We all love sporting fairytales, but as much as Newcastle have improved over the past month, this one won't have any scary sub-plots. After absorbing an energetic opening stanza, the visitors will slowly grind down the home side to post a comfortable win. Storm by 14.