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Canterbury and Newcastle go head-to-head in a bottom of the table clash to kick-start Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. 

Regardless of where both these sides sit on the ladder, an intriguing clash awaits for two proud clubs who have endured different storylines to start the year but manage to find themselves languishing behind 14 other teams.

The Bulldogs were always going to take time to gel as a unit with a host of new recruits at the club and despite not getting the result against Canberra last start, there are signs Trent Barrett's side are on the rise, albeit slowly.

Newcastle started the season in blistering form but have hit a number of roadblocks, none more so than in recent weeks with heavy losses against the Cowboys, Storm and Eels.

It's fairly easy to assume where it all began to go wrong for the Hunter club.

It was the afternoon in Bathurst when Mitchell Barnett was sent off against the Panthers that results began to turn. Since then, Barnett has watched from the sidelines as the side haven't won a game.

Injuries have added to the woes but in a boost for Adam O'Brien, around six including Barnett, are due back this week with no doubt a point to prove.

Both these sides require a little bit of magic in the NRL's special round. These two teams met in Magic Round in 2019 with the Knights winning 22-12. 

Canterbury have just two players left from that side while Newcastle have eight, showing the turnover at both clubs in recent years. 

Sportsbet Betting preview: Bulldogs v Knights

The Rundown

Team news

Bulldogs: Winger Jayden Okunbor is a late inclusion in jersey No.22 pushing Brent Naden to the centres and Jake Averillo to 18th man. The other change to last week's team is Chris Patolo coming onto the bench for Ava Seumanufagai.  Raymond Faitala-Mariner is at least another week away as he eyes a return from a complicated foot injury. 

Knights: The Knights are 1-17 with no late changes. A double boost with Mitchell Barnett and Adam Clune named to return. Barnett's comeback is six weeks in the making after he copped a long ban for a raised elbow in round three. He replaces Jack Johns (arm) who faces some time on the sidelines. Clune missed last week's match with a knee injury with his return shifting Phoenix Crossland to the bench. Edrick Lee (head knock) passed his concussion protocols and will play.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Matt Dufty
    Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
    Winger for Knights is number 2 Edrick Lee
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 2 Brent Naden
    Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari Tuala
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 3 Aaron Schoupp
    Centre for Knights is number 4 Bradman Best
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 22 Jayden Okunbor
    Winger for Knights is number 5 Dominic Young
  • Five-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Matt Burton
    Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Tex Hoy
  • Halfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Kyle Flanagan
    Halfback for Knights is number 7 Adam Clune

Forwards

  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 8 Luke Thompson
    Prop for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
  • Hooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
    Hooker for Knights is number 9 Chris Randall
  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 10 Paul Vaughan
    Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Corey Waddell
    2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Mitchell Barnett
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Tevita Pangai Junior
    2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
  • Lock for Bulldogs is number 13 Josh Jackson
    Lock for Knights is number 13 Leo Thompson

Interchange

  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Bailey Biondi-Odo
    Interchange for Knights is number 14 Phoenix Crossland
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Joe Stimson
    Interchange for Knights is number 15 Jacob Saifiti
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Max King
    Interchange for Knights is number 16 Pasami Saulo
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Chris Patolo
    Interchange for Knights is number 17 Mat Croker

Reserves

  • Replacement for Bulldogs is number 4 Jake Averillo
    Replacement for Knights is number 18 Simi Sasagi

Match Officials

  • Referee: Peter Gough
  • Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
  • Senior Review Official: Adam Gee

Last updated:

Key match-up

Paul Vaughan v Daniel Saifiti: One is a former NSW Origin prop and the other is an incumbent, although you get the feeling Saifiti's place in the Blues side beckons on his next three weeks of football after a sluggish personal start to the year. Vaughan has arrived at Belmore averaging a tidy 126 metres per game with 12 tackle busts and three offloads. Saifiti (108 metres) hasn't been as efficient this season while the usually defensive-strong prop has 13 missed tackles in seven games. Saifiti's right-hand man David Klemmer has performed strong but needs a mate to go with him and set the Knights a platform to work with.

Stat attack

Points haven't been easy to come by for either side to start the season but it's nothing new for both clubs in the past 18 months with Newcastle and Canterbury ranked the bottom two in attack last season as well. Despite some hefty player turnover, the Bulldogs are still only averaging 10 points per game. Newcastle aren't much better (12 per game). Expect this one to go down to the wire, particularly if the heavens open up in this one.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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