The new look Knights have crashed back to earth after back-to-back defeats to the Roosters and Dragons while the Broncos are also turning up to this one having lost to the Gold Coast Titans and in less than stellar form.
The 2018 Knights proved with early wins over the Sea Eagles and Raiders that they’re not the easy beats of previous seasons but with the comprehensive manner of their losses to the Chooks and Dragons, question marks linger over the overall makeup of a playing roster that received a gigantic facelift over the off-season.
Losing prize recruit Tautau Moga to his fourth career ACL tear last week was a heartbreaker for the Novocastrians and will cause a significant backline shift while much of the responsibility for composure and creativity will fall on Mitchell Pearce and Brock Lamb who has been handed a first grade lifeline following injury to Connor Watson.
The Broncos were left stunned by the Titans last week. The Gold Coast side, led by the astonishingly talented Ash Taylor were at their very best as they upset ‘big brother’ Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday evening. In their favour, the Broncos welcome back some key components ahead of their trip to the Hunter this week.
2017 - Round 19 - Brisbane Broncos 34 def. Newcastle Knights 22 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2016 - Round 7 - Brisbane Broncos 53 def. Newcastle Knights 0 at Suncorp Stadium
2015 - Round 16 - Brisbane Broncos 44 def. Newcastle Knights 22 at Suncorp Stadium
2015 - Round 11 - Brisbane Broncos 31 def. Newcastle Knights 18 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2014 - Round 24 - Brisbane Broncos 48 def. Newcastle Knights 6 at Suncorp Stadium
If there's one thing we can glean from the recent history between the Broncos and the Knights it's that the Broncos enjoy playing Newcastle, either home or away.
Brisbane have won the last six straight meetings between these two sides and quite comfortably on occasion with margins of 12, 53, 22, 13, 42 and 26 while the Knights last beat Brisbane way back on August 30th 213 when doubles from Darius Boyd and Joseph Leilua, as well as a try to Kurt Gidley, was enough to seal a 26-18 victory.
Things have certainly changed since then and with an overall record of 35 wins from their 50 meetings and 10 wins from the last 12, history says the Broncos are in a good position to turn around their bad run of form in 2018.
|Newcastle Knights||Brisbane Broncos|
|1||Kalyn Ponga||Darius Boyd|
|2||Shaun Kenny-Dowall||Corey Oates|
|3||Sione Mata'utia||James Roberts|
|4||Nathan Ross||Jack Bird|
|5||Ken Sio||Jamayne Isaako|
|6||Brock Lamb||Anthony Milford|
|7||Mitchell Pearce||Kodi Nikorima|
|8||Herman Ese'ese||< Player name redacted >|
|9||Slade Griffin||Andrew McCullough|
|10||Jacob Lillyman||Korbin Sims|
|11||Lachlan Fitzgibbon||Alex Glenn|
|12||Aidan Guerra||Matt Gillett|
|13||Mitch Barnett||Josh McGuire|
|14||Jamie Buhrer||Sam Thaiday|
|15||Chris Heighington||Joe Ofahengaue|
|16||Jacob Saifiti||Tom Opacic|
|17||Daniel Saifiti||Jaydn Su'A|
|18||Luke Yates||Jonus Pearson|
|19||Jack Cogger||Tevita Pangai Junior|
|20||Danny Levi||Gehamat Shibasaki|
|21||Cory Denniss||Payne Haas|
The facts that matter
With the gut-wrenching news that Tautau Moga’s season is done and dusted, the Knights have shifted fan-favourite Nathan Ross to the centres with former Parramatta Eel Ken Sio drafted onto the wing. Sio has plenty of NRL experience and while the loss of Moga takes plenty away from the Knights in attack, their defence should see minimal disruption.
In their bid to end a two-game losing streak, the Knights will also be buoyed by their vocal, vociferous home ground support. McDonald Jones Stadium has played host to one of the most loyal and loud fanbases in the league and the Novocastrian faithful will be out in full force on a balmy Saturday night as they take on old foe Wayne Bennett.
Bennett, and by proxy Darius Boyd, remain unpopular figures in the Hunter after their ill-fated spell under the previous management of Nathan Tinkler and they’ll be in for a rough and rowdy reception this week.
Going against the Knights is their appalling overall record against Brisbane. In 47 clashes between the two proud clubs, the Broncos have walked away with the two competition points 33 times while a lone draw between the pair was played out at what is now known as McDonald Jones Stadium back in 2015.
Averaging 147 metres per game, fullback and superstar on the rise Kalyn Ponga could hold the key in attack for the Novocastrians.
The Knights will be keen to get back some of that wonderful winning feeling they had over the first two weeks of the competition and a win at home against the Broncos in front of a big crowd would be handy boost.
It’s safe to say that Wayne Bennett will have read the riot act to his troops and put them through an intense week at Red Hill following last week’s shock loss at home to the Gold Coast Titans.
Heavily backed coming into the contest, the Broncos were out-muscled and out-played by the hungrier Titans and dropped two valuable competition points.
While a trip to Newcastle is rarely an easy proposition, especially given their new found grit and fight in 2018, the Broncos do boast a strong record in the Hunter and will see the trip as a perfect chance to get things back on track after a less than smooth start to the 2018 campaign. In pure numbers, the Broncos have won 16 of their 26 games in Newcastle, drawing one and losing just nine times.
The Broncos are also boosted by the welcome returns of Corey Oates and Tevita Pangai Junior who could add some much needed starch to a side which has looked a little lacklustre. Pangai Junior, in particular, could provide a huge impact if he were to force his way from the reserves to the bench before kick-off
The Broncos have relied heavily on big metres through the middle of the ruck so far in 2018 with Josh McGuire (137m) and <player name redacted> (134m) averaging the biggest yards across the first rounds of the competition. Former Bronco Herman Ese’ese could prove the stiffest competition in the middle third with the new Newcastle man averaging a handy 118m per game in his own right.
The history books would have you tip the Broncos given their complete dominance over the Knights but I’m a gambling man at heart and while I’ll be having a responsible little investment on the game, it’ll be on the Knights in a tough, grinding affair.
The margin should definitely be in the 1-12 range with both sides capable of getting bogged down in an arm wrestle, so I don’t like the look of the overs or anything like that, but in front of a parochial, packed crowd, I’ll stump for the home side.
Will it be the Knights or the Broncos who get things back on track with a win this week? Let us know in the comments and poll below.