The Newcastle Knights host the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon looking for their second win on home soil in 2016.
It’s been a tough year for the Knights and the task becomes even harder on Saturday when the young Knights forward pack come face to face with an experienced Bulldogs pack.
The Bulldogs forward pack and interchange bench named for the Round 22 clash is littered with International and Origin players and combine for a total of 899 NRL games, while the Knights have a total of 520 NRL games experience, with Jeremy Smith having played 210 of those.
Add in the size of the Bulldogs forwards who will go into the match with an average weight of 109.3kg compared to that of the Knights with 104.7kg, it seems a tough ask.
“They are certainly big, there’s no doubt about that,” Coach Nathan Brown said.
“They are quite skilful with their hands and a few of the Manly boys who caused us trouble on the weekend were very direct.
“If we get our attention to detail and our techniques right, which we have proven at times this year, we want to make the contest hard and don’t want to make it an easy contest.
“The more you hang in there, you never know what will happen then.”
Meanwhile former Bulldog and Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson believes getting their defence right in the middle will be a focus for the home side.
“We have to tidy things up through the middle as the Bulldogs pack is such a big pack and they have been well known for it.
“We know what their strengths are and that’s their big boys up the middle.
“First and foremost we will focus on our ruck defence and do our best there and things will come off the back of that,” Hodkinson added.
The Knights have been a real bogey side for the Bulldogs since they entered the competition in 1988, with only seven wins from 19 trips to the Hunter.
The last time these two sides met on Knights home soil saw the Bulldogs walk away with a 20-18 victory, while in 2013 the Bulldogs were handed their biggest defeat at Hunter Stadium when the Knights won 44-8 and with five games left in the season, four of those being played at home, Coach Nathan Brown is hoping for a positive finish to the season.
“We are back at home and it would be nice to put in a good one,” he said on Tuesday.
“If the people of Newcastle see the young guys really ripping in and having a go, they will be happy with that.
"We have five games to go and have four at home so we want to try to make a good account of ourselves regardless of what we put on the field.”