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Fitzgibbon and Saifiti hope to spark late Knights revival

Lachlan Fitzgibbon hopes to pick up where he left off a month ago.

Jacob Saifiti just wants to finish an up until now frustrating season on a positive note.

The two forwards will return to the Newcastle pack against Manly at Lottoland on Saturday, desperate to make an impact in a game the sliding Knights must win to regain lost momentum and keep their finals hopes alive.

Fitzgibbon suffered ligament damage in his left elbow in Newcastle’s 24-20 loss to the Warriors on July 6 but was cleared earlier this week to return one week ahead of schedule and the 25-year-old back-rower was selected in his regular position on the left edge.

The Knights have lost all three games Fitzgibbon has missed but he laughed off suggestions he was something of a talisman.

"I don’t think that’s a determining factor. For some unknown reason I can’t put my finger on, it’s a million-dollar question isn’t it – why we haven’t been getting the results – but I’m not too sure it’s solely because I haven’t playing, that’s for sure," Fitzgibbon said.

"It’s about getting continuity around the side, and those combinations on both edges and even in the middle. With a lot of chopping and changing that we had … during the Origin period, then a couple of injuries, it’s been difficult but like I said, there’s no excuses.

Knights forward Jacob Saifiti.
Knights forward Jacob Saifiti. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

"The good teams manage to get it done with the players they’ve got out there. It’s good to have a lot of the troops back this week … and hopefully that will turn into some points.

"I’m not going out there to over-play my hand, so to speak, and it’s not like I’m coming back … to win the game for the team, I guess."

Saifiti has made just one NRL appearance this year, coming off the bench against the Warriors in the same game in which Fitzgibbon was injured.

He has been recalled to replace Herman Ese’ese on the interchange alongside James Gavet, Sione Mata’utia and Aidan Guerra.

The 23-year-old twin brother of NSW prop Daniel Saifiti missed the start of the season recovering from a broken leg suffered in a late-night incident outside a hotel in Hamilton, about 2.5km from McDonald Jones Stadium, and has been biding his time in the Canterbury Cup NSW.

"This year … has been a long road but I’ve worked very hard to get where I am now, and I think honestly, it’s up to me if I want to keep my spot," Saifiti said.

"Getting my spot back, that’s good, but now the hard part is keeping it.

"With the depth we have in the squad at the moment, one bad performance can see you back in Cup, and I definitely don’t want that. I got a taste of it against Warriors and I loved every second of it, and now I’m keen on keeping my spot."

Saifiti feels inspired by the sudden rise of his brother to the status of Origin series-winning NSW prop and, though he dreams of following in his footsteps, is focused on the job at hand with the Knights.

Jacob flew to Perth to watch Daniel make his Origin debut in the Blues’ 38-6 destruction of Queensland at Optus Stadium on June 23.

Sea Eagles v Knights - Round 20

"I was sort of there with him … I wasn’t playing but it’s the most excited I’ve ever been in my life. I rode the wave with him and I couldn’t be prouder," he said.

Fitzgibbon was confident his elbow had fully healed, and it will need to be as he and the Newcastle forwards try to muscle up against a Manly pack led by wrecking-ball middle men Martin Taupau, Addin Fonua-Blake and Jake Trbojevic.

"It will be four weeks when Saturday comes around. We got the brace off probably a week earlier than we thought and we got some strength work into it, and it’s responded pretty well to treatment and getting the load back into it," Fitzgibbon said.

"I’m not real good on the sidelines. I kind of ride the game as if I was playing, up and down with a lot of mixed emotions. It has been frustrating, with the losses we’ve had … but hopefully we can turn that around this weekend and get a win."

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