Stopping Dogs' forwards key for Knights
Toppling the juggernauts in the Canterbury forward pack will go a long way towards matching it with the Bulldogs on Friday night according to Newcastle Knights prop Josh Starling.
The former Sea Eagle is relishing the opportunity to be in the starting 13 again at Newcastle after predominantly being used off the bench under Manly coach Trent Barrett at the Northern Beaches.
Starling is known to be a fiery character on-field and was sin-binned after a melee with Bulldogs back-rower Josh Jackson during the 2014 finals series.
While the Knights have size, they've struggled to make inroads against the opposition and rank the worst in the Telstra Premiership for metres gained after five rounds, an area Starling said needed improvement.
"No doubt it's going to be another big battle in the middle… we don't have a very experienced team and they've got a lot of 'grade A' players, especially their middle forwards," Starling said.
"[Canterbury] are so different and hard to train for because they have a lot of great ball players, a lot of great skill and a lot of big men off the bench, so we've got to cover all those things in the upcoming days.
"We are going to have to be on our game again and try and match it like we did with the Sharks."
After a fortnight of upheaval at Belmore, the Bulldogs bounced back with a hard-fought victory over the Broncos in wet conditions in Round 5 and announced the re-signing of under-fire head coach Des Hasler for another two years.
"We know they can win games," Starling said of the Bulldogs.
"They were down 7-0 with 20 minutes to go and they end up beating the Broncos, who are no slouch of a team.
"We know that they can play and they can defend so we're really going to have to be patient in what we do."
Knights coach Nathan Brown indicated game management was the major issue to come out of the team's one-point loss to the Sharks, and Starling said the Knights would have had more than one win on the board if the side controlled the key moments better.
"We are disappointed because all those other games besides the one with the Panthers, we had an opportunity to win them and we didn't take them," Starling said.
"We should probably have three or four wins to our name instead of one.
"[Cronulla] was a tough game, we tried really hard but didn't come away with it in the end and that's what we were disappointed in.
"We were in with a chance to win and we let them get away with a couple of tries that we could have easily prevented.
"The way they finished the game and how professional they were is exactly what we're trying to work to."
Newcastle's return home to McDonald Jones Stadium is the first time in over three years the side has hosted a Friday night fixture at the venue with the last coming in Round 20, 2014 – where the Knights caused an upset against the more-fancied Roosters outfit, 16-12.