Friday night footy for Anzac round kicks off with the Sea Eagles returning to their home surroundings, once regarded as “Fortress Brookvale” to take on the Knights. This match can be best described as a team in terrible form and surrounded by controversy, playing host to another team who will be missing their chief playmaker for the remainder of the season.
The Sea Eagles go into this match on the back of three consecutive and very disappointing defeats to the Titans, Tigers and Eels. In fact, their performances against the Tigers and Eels are better described as abominable, given how meekly they surrendered to their opponents, coupled by the fact that they effectively handed the Eels their first victory for the season. Their cause in not helped by the controversy surrounding their players, regarding the events at a strip club in Gladstone, all of which was their own making.
As for the Knights, I have said numerous times that this season is one of massive improvement, and it’s conspicuous to see. Given how meekly they capitulated in their matches over the past three seasons, while claiming three wooden spoons in the process, the Knights have been comparatively tenacious in most of their performances. This was exemplified in their victory over the Tigers last week in Tamworth, where they showed perseverance in spades and were rewarded with a 22-20 victory. Unfortunately, the win has come a heavy price, with marquee signing and captain Mitchell Pearce suffering a serious pectoral injury, sidelining him for the season.
It will be definitely interesting to see how the Sea Eagles respond, given their issues on and off the field. Moreover, this will be a real test for the Knights and how they cope without a key player who was influential in all their victories, given he will be out of action for an extended period.
2018 - Round 1 - Newcastle Knights 19 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
2017 - Round 14 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18 def. Newcastle Knights 14 at Lottoland.
2016 - Round 21 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 36 def. Newcastle Knights 16 at Lottoland.
2016 - Round 8 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 26 def. Newcastle Knights 10 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
2015 - Round 9 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 30 def. Newcastle Knights 10 at Lottoland.
As can be seen, by the aforementioned recent encounters, the Sea Eagles have been largely the dominant team, winning four out of the five meetings. However, this trend was bucked in their most recent encounter in the first round this season, when the Knights toppled the Sea Eagles by a solitary point in golden point, courtesy of a field goal by marquee signing, Mitchell Pearce. As for the overall head-to-head meetings between the two teams, the Sea Eagles have been the dominant side, with 31 victories to the Knights’ 20.
In their history, the only periods in which the Knights have been dominant over the men from the Northern Beaches were 1990-1992, 1997-2004 and 2005-2010. During the Sea Eagles’ nightmare days between 2000 and 2002 as part of the failed joint venture, better known as the Northern Eagles, it was the men from the Hunter Valley who were the dominant team in their encounters. In fact, it can also be noted that during the playing career of legendary Knight Andrew Johns (1994-2007), the men from the Hunter Valley had experienced a substantial amount of their victories over the men from the northern beaches.
It was during this period in 1997 that the Knights had caused a major boil over in the ARL grand final, toppling the Sea Eagles 22-16, in what was regarded as one of the greatest grand finals ever by most fans, despite the split competition. For Sea Eagles fans, it was a bitter pill to swallow, given they were beaten right on full time, coupled by the fact that in the following year, three of the Knights’ premiership players were found to be taking performance-enhancing drugs.
However, the Knights have a poor record in the northern beaches, winning only two matches there. They have not returned to the Hunter Valley with the two competition points since 2006.
|Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||Newcastle Knights|
|1||Tom Trbojevic|| Kalyn Ponga|
|2||Matthew Wright||Ken Sio|
|3||Dylan Walker||Sione Mata'utia|
|4||Brian Kelly||Nathan Ross|
|5||Akuila Uate||Shaun Kenny-Dowall|
|6||Lachlan Croker||Connor Watson|
|7||Daly Cherry-Evans||Jack Cogger|
|8||Addin Fonua-Blake||Herman Ese'ese|
|9||Apisai Koroisau||Slade Griffin|
|10||Martin Taupau||Daniel Saifiti|
|11||Joel Thompson||Lachlan Fitzgibbon|
|12||Jack Gosiewski||Aidan Guerra|
|13||Jake Trbojevic||Mitchell Barnett|
|14||Lewis Brown||Jamie Buhrer|
|15||Shaun Lane||Chris Heighington|
|16||Lloyd Perrett||Luke Yates|
|17||Taniela Paseka||Jacob Saifiti|
|18||Frank Winterstein||Cory Denniss|
|19||Jonathan Wright||Josh King|
|20||Thomas Wright||Brock Lamb|
|21||Toafofoa Sipley||Jacob Lillyman|
The facts that matter
Ever since their victory over the Raiders the Easter round, the Sea Eagles have experienced a very barren run to say the least. They have been beaten by the Titans in Gladstone, and were absolutely annihilated by the Tigers and Eels. In fact, the loss to the Tigers at home made a mockery of their home ground being regarded as a fortress, whereas their defeat by the Eels saw them being the first team to have lost to the Eels.
Moreover, this period saw them score 42 points, while conceding a mammoth 104 points. Whilst there is minimal doubt that the Sea Eagles are more than capable of scoring points, it is their leaking of points that will be of most concern to coach Trent Barrett. The men from the northern beaches have conceded a total of 183 points thus far this season, with only the Titans and their opponents for this match conceding more points.
On a positive note, the Sea Eagles have an imposing record over the Knights at home, winning 16 out of 18 matches against the Knights at home. Despite their recent poor form, they will undoubtedly face their chances at home against an opponent without their chief playmaker.
For the Knights, they sit in 8th position after seven rounds, courtesy of winning four matches and losing three. After being widely tipped to lose to the in-form Tigers, the Knights demonstrated their competitive tenacity, to upset the Tigers 22-20 in Tamworth. In all of the Knights victories, whilst the margins weren’t substantial, they have exemplified the newfound tenacity by the men from the Hunter Valley, as they won the tight matches which they would have undoubtedly lost in previous seasons.
However, for all the perseverance shown by the Knights, their losses have shown that their defence still requires much improvement. They have conceded 184 points, to be ranked the second worst in defence. Moreover, their losses have seen them lose by 30 to the Roosters, 18 to the Dragons and 26 to the Storm. In these losses, they have conceded 38, 30 and 40 points, respectively.
Moreover, their record against their opponents away from home is rather dismal to say the least, as they have only twice tasted victory at Brookvale Oval. This is far from ideal time to be playing there, especially when your key player has been ruled out for the season.
With the Sea Eagles having suffered some rather humiliating losses recently, one would expect them to unleash their frustrations on their opponents. Given the strike power they losses with the like of the Trbojevic brothers, Daly Cherry-Evans, Dylan Walker and former Knight, Akuila Uate, it would be of little surprise to see them pile on the points against a team with glaring defensive frailties. The Knights have some strike power of their own in Kalyn Ponga, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Ken Sio and Nathan Ross, however their attack is not as lethal as that of their opponents.
Whilst the Sea Eagles’ form is rather poor and they are plagued with numerous off-field dramas, it’s difficult to ignore the Knights abysmal record on the northern beaches, coupled by the fact that their key playmaker in Pearce is a notable absence from the team. As such, I expect this Brookvale hoodoo to continue for the Knights for yet another season. Sea Eagles by 10.
Can the Knights keep up their winning ways without Mitchell Pearce or will the Sea Eagles bounce back from a horror-show performance last week? Let us know in the comments and poll below.