SBW focused on getting even better
The Newcastle Knights are preparing to play against code-hopping match-winner Sonny Bill Williams and other Sydney Roosters superstars in a trial at Wyong on Saturday.
Featuring players not involved in the Auckland Nines this weekend, the Knights and Roosters will meet at 6.30pm at Morry Breen Oval.
The reigning NRL premiers plan to use the game as part of their preparation for the World Club Challenge against Wigan at Allianz Stadium the following Saturday.
Of the team that eclipsed Manly 26-18 in the NRL grand final last October, only five players – Mitchell Pearce, Jake Friend, Aidan Guerra, Daniel Tupou and Shaun Kenny-Dowall – were named on Tuesday in the 16-man Roosters squad for the Nines.
That will leave the likes of Williams, Anthony Minichiello, Michael Jennings, James Maloney, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner and Frank-Paul Nuuausala at home and potentially available to play against a predominantly second-string Knights squad.
Dally M winger of the year Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is still recovering from the leg injury he suffered in New Zealand’s 34-2 loss to Australia in the World Cup final last November but is reportedly making steady progress and could also be considered.
The Knights have been told the Roosters will field some members of their senior squad alongside players from the Newtown Jets, their NSW Cup feeder team.
“They haven’t finalised their team yet, the Roosters, but we’ve heard a whisper that they’re going to give a few blokes a run before the World Club Challenge and Sonny Bill and ‘Mini’ might be among the blokes they use,” a Knights source told Fairfax Media.
The Knights team is expected to be based around a nucleus of senior players such as Clint Newton, David Fa’alogo, Korbin Sims and Travis Waddell, and emerging prospects Jake Mamo, Josh Mantellato, Matt Minto and brothers Pat and Sione Mata’utia.
In the absence of coaches Trent Robinson and Jason Taylor, who will be in Auckland in charge of their Nines squad, the Roosters will be guided by assistants Steve McNamara and Craig Fitzgibbon on Saturday.
McNamara, the England Test mentor, joined the Roosters’ coaching staff in December.
Robinson said on Tuesday that the Roosters, who have included premiership-winning former captain Brad Fittler in their Nines squad, had done no training for the pre-season tournament because they were concentrating on the game against Wigan.
“We’ve focused on the World Club Challenge,” Robinson said.
“We’ve talked clearly about the Nines with the players that are going, and even the squad that haven’t, about the approach that we want to take to playing the game but we haven’t spent time practising. We’ve spent time on our 13-a-side game, as we should.”
The Knights’ only full-blown NRL trial will be against Canberra at Tamworth on February 22.
Newcastle’s National Youth Cup and NSW Cup teams will play the Raiders and feeder club Mounties at Aubrey Keech Reserve at Hinchinbrook the following day.
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