Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles
Date: Saturday, March 10
Location: Cessnock Sportsground
1. Matt Cooper, 2. Lachlan Farr, 3. Brayden Musgrove, 4. Mitch Andrews, 5. Justin Worley, 6. Nash Birch, 7. Hayden Loughrey, 8. Henry-Siriah Fuimaono, 9. Tom Starling, 10. Jirah Momoisea, 11. Kurtis Dark, 12. Beau Fermor, 13. Brandon Russell. Interchange: 14. Tevita Alifa, 15. Joe Bromage, 16. Luke Huth, 17. Matthew Croker.
nib Newcastle Knights coach Todd Lowrie says there’s a mixed bag of experience and newcomers in his squad this year as they prepare to take on the Manly Sea Eagles for Round 1.
The Under 20s Jersey Flegg side has several set to make their debut for the Club, including forwards Henry-Siriah Fuimaono, Beau Fermor and Brandon Russell as well as Tevita Alifa and Joe Bromage on the bench.
“We have got some guys that have got a lot of experience at this Club like Matt Cooper and Tom Starling who have been with the full-time squad,” said Lowrie.
“We also have some guys who have no experience at the Club but played in the 20s before… it’s exciting.”
In the changed state-based format, the under 20s side will get to battle it out with the reigning premiers, who are again expected to be a polished side.
“It’s very hard to gauge year by year with the age group competition teams but Manly won the comp last year and I’m sure they’ll be very good again,” stated Lowrie.
“But we’ve got a great team with some good experience, so it will be good to play against a top team straight up and see how we’ll go.
“You don’t really know much about the opposition at this time of the year, so we’ll have a lot of focus on holding on to the ball and whoever holds the ball generally comes out in front.”
The Knights have a new halves combination with Nash Birch taking the number six and Hayden Loughrey in the halfback role.
“Our halves is one area where we don’t have a lot of combinations at the moment,” Lowrie admitted.
“Hayden played a lot of last year but he had a shoulder reconstruction at the end of last year so he hasn’t actually trained a whole lot in the off season.
“He’s done everything that he’s been asked to do and luckily he’s ahead of schedule, which is good for him and good for us.
“He’ll be able to slip straight back in but saying that, a few different people played in the halves in the off season and Nash played a lot of hooker for us last season and a bit in the halves in the past.
“He’s had a good off season and he deserves the first crack at the other halves spot.”
Meanwhile, Lowrie feels the change in competition from NYC last year back to Jersey Flegg in 2018, and the reduced time playing before NRL at McDonald Jones Stadium, won’t have too much effect on his players.
“The guys that have been playing for the Club in the 20s before have been a little bit spoilt in terms of what the Club provides for them and what they’ve been able to do,” he said.
“Some guys that have come from other clubs didn’t always play before their first grade sides, so they probably won’t notice too much of a difference.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a footy field with white lines around the outside and the try line is still in the same spot, but when you step on the field, I don’t think there will be any difference whatsoever.”