These teams squared off a couple of weeks ago in a trial won comfortably by the Sharks so it'll be interesting to see what happens with the stakes raised.
After adding Tim Glasby, James Gavet, Dave Klemmer, Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee in the off-season, the heat is on coach Nathan Brown to guide the Knights into the top eight at the very least.
The Knights were no match for Cronulla a fortnight ago and Brown would've done his homework to make tactical adjustments for this clash.
Unlike most of his coaching peers, Sharks coach John Morris is virtually under no pressure in 2019 after taking over from Shane Flanagan halfway through the pre-season.
He seems to have his team all on the same page and has a playing roster good enough to emulate last year's top four finish.
Match: Knights v Sharks
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Knights: The Knights will start 1-17 after Jamie Buhrer and Herman Ese'ese were the players left out an hour before kick-off. New faces Edrick Lee, Hymel Hunt, Jesse Ramien, David Klemmer, James Gavet and Tim Glasby all start, with Kurt Mann the bench utility. Newcastle now boast plenty of depth in the forwards. Josh King and Brodie Jones were omitted on Thursday night.
Sharks: Cronulla will start 1-17 after Scott Sorensen and Kyle Flanagan were left out an hour before kick-off. Shaun Johnson lines up at five-eighth for his new club, with Briton Nikora and Kurt Capewell named as Cronulla's new second-rowers in the absence of Wade Graham (knee) and Luke Lewis (retired). Blayke Brailey will make his debut off the bench, with his brother wearing the No.9. Bronson Xerri and Braden Hamlin-Uele dropped out of the squad 24 hours before kick-off.
Fullback for Knights is number 1 Connor WatsonFullback for Sharks is number 1 Matt Moylan
Winger for Knights is number 2 Edrick LeeWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sosaia Feki
Centre for Knights is number 3 Hymel HuntCentre for Sharks is number 3 Josh Dugan
Centre for Knights is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Sharks is number 4 Josh Morris
Winger for Knights is number 5 Shaun Kenny-DowallWinger for Sharks is number 5 Sione Katoa
Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kalyn PongaFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell PearceHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Knights is number 8 David KlemmerProp for Sharks is number 8 Andrew Fifita
Hooker for Knights is number 9 Danny LeviHooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden Brailey
Prop for Knights is number 10 James GavetProp for Sharks is number 10 Matt Prior
2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Sione Mata'utia2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Kurt Capewell
Lock for Knights is number 13 Tim GlasbyLock for Sharks is number 13 Paul Gallen
Interchange for Knights is number 14 Kurt MannInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Blayke Brailey
Interchange for Knights is number 15 Aidan GuerraInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Jayson Bukuya
Interchange for Knights is number 16 Mitchell BarnettInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Aaron Woods
Interchange for Knights is number 17 Daniel SaifitiInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Jack Williams
Connor Watson has his hands full against Sharks fullback Matt Moylan, while Chad Townsend will relish his halfback duel with Newcastle's Mitchell Pearce, but most eyes will be on the battle between opposing five-eighths Kalyn Ponga and Shaun Johnson.
For the Knights to win
Brown will be counting on the likes of Klemmer, Glasby and Gavet to make plenty of inroads up front to allow Ponga and Pearce to do their thing. The Sharks don't often beat themselves and the Knights need an 80-minute effort of sticking to the game plan.
For the Sharks to win
The new-look halves combination of Townsend and Johnson might take time to click but the early signs are certainly promising. If the workmanlike Cronulla pack overpowers the Knights forwards, the Sharks should have too much firepower in the backs.
And another thing
No-one questions Josh Dugan's abilities on a football field, but the problem for the injury-prone Dugan is that he's not on the field often enough. In five years with the Dragons he played just 85 games and last year he managed 14 in his first season with the Sharks. He will be crossing his fingers that he plays the entire season.
Brett Kimmorley says ...
The excitement of Johnson v Ponga – the two new No.6s. The Sharks are lacking in experienced second-rowers right now with Luke Lewis gone and Wade Graham injured. The person I'm really interested in watching for the Knights is Jesse Ramien, while the signing of David Klemmer will provide a huge boost for Newcastle. The move for Matt Moylan out of the front line is good for the Sharks. Sharks by 4
Knights Stat Attack
After establishing himself as a solid first-grader in 2017, Lachlan Fitzgibbon earned a reputation as one of the NRL's top tryscoring forwards. The 25-year-old back-rower scored nine tries in 21 games, made 12 line breaks and finished the season with an impressive 89.8 per cent tackle efficiency.
Sharks Stat Attack
Love him or loathe him, Andrew Fifita is one of the game's most damaging players. Last year the 29-year-old prop was a model of consistency, making 117 tackle breaks and averaging 14.8 hit-ups per game. He was one of the leaders in post-contact metres and recorded an excellent 92.9 per cent tackle efficiency.
Head to head in the NRL era (since 1998)
- Played: 38; Knights 21 wins, Sharks 17 wins
- Latest result: Sharks won 38-12 in round 24, 2018
- At this venue: Knights 55% wins, Sharks 37% wins