THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
Hunter Stadium, 7:30pm local time.
KNIGHTS: Darius Boyd, James McManus, Wes Naiqama, Timana Tahu, Akuila Uate, Kurt Gidley (c), Jarrod Mullen, Kade Snowden, Danny Buderus, Adam Cuthbertson, Chris Houston, Zeb Taia, Neville Costigan. Reserves: Matt Hilder, Richie Fa’aoso, Joel Edwards, Alex McKinnon.
DRAGONS: Kyle Stanley, Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Matt Cooper, Jason Nightingale, Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (c), Jeremy Latimore, Mitch Rein, Michael Weyman, Matt Prior, Ben Creagh, Dean Young. Interchange: Nathan Fien, Leeson Ah Mau, Trent Merrin, Jack de Belin
Welcome to the NRL competition for 2012! The first game of the season takes place on a Thursday night and sees the Knights take on the Dragons. The particular significance of this match is the head to head between the two coaches. For those who don’t know, the Knights coach Wayne Bennett was the coach of the Dragons for the last 3 years. The Dragons are now coached by Bennett’s then assistant Steve Price.
The hopes of the city of Newcastle rest firmly on Bennett’s shoulders following his successful 3 year stint at St. George-Illawarra that saw him net 2 minor premierships and a Grand Final. Many agree; Bennett is the best coach in the game and anything short of a premiership will be considered a failure.
I’m looking forward to the battle of the fullbacks in this one. Knights fullback Darius Boyd was also a Dragon when Bennett was at the helm and very publicly followed him to the Knights declaring that he didn’t want to play under anyone else. Whether you liked it or not, there is no doubting Boyd’s ability and skill. His opposite number 1 is youngster Kyle Stanley. There certainly are doubts as to his abilty what with him being so young but he has a fresh slate on which to carve his reputation into and I am confident that he can impress.
I’m tipping the Knights to scrape home on the back of their new Wayne Bennett style of defence but there will be some very tired players having their fitness (or lack of) tested in the final 10 minutes of this one.
All in all, it should be a very entertaining season opener and I for one can’t wait!
Chance of winning: Knights 59%, Dragons 40%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Newcastle Knights
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Starting Bank: $2000, Current Bank $2000
(Team lists sourced from nrl.com.au)