The Newcastle Knights have declared this weekend is the one they can earn the respect they deserve in the 2008 NRL. Facing the in-form Brisbane Broncos, with a win at Energy Australia Stadium – the Knights can prove theirÂ rebuilding phase is not only on track, but ready to take on the big guns in this years premiership.
Newcastle coach Brian Smith took a playful dig at Brisbane’s depth of topline talent today as he plotted an upset in their Sunday NRL clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
“What are they down to…seven or eight Origin players, or maybe more?” said Smith, of Broncos captain Darren Lockyer’s injury-enforced absence.
“Darren’s a great player and he obviously has an effect even for his state and national teams so it’s handy from our point of view.
“But they’ve still got a team with so many great individuals.”
The Knights go into the match well aware they were on the losing end of a 71-6 scoreline — the fifth highest total in 100 years –Â the last time they met.
Brisbane have six players with Origin experience in their side in Karmichael Hunt (4 games), Justin Hodges (8), David Stagg (1), Sam Thaiday (3), Tonie Carroll (18) and PJ Marsh (3) while Greg Eastwood has played Tests for New Zealand.
Smith has three players, Kurt Gidley (2), Adam MacDougall (11) and skipper Danny Buderus (18) who’ve played Origin while Richard Fa’Aoso has played for Samoa.
Smith knows there’s a huge opportunity for his rebuilding Newcastle team to make a big statement against the Broncos – and with their passionate crowd in their corner, Sunday presents an ideal ambush chance.
“I don’t think anyone would deny if we can beat Brisbane, we’re a reasonable team,” said Smith.
“It’s a chance to get some credibility back in the place.”
Those kind of words hopefully sink in with his players.
Buderus (cork) and five-eighth Chris Bailey (ribs) came through fitness tests but a late bid by halfback Jarrod Mullen (calf) to pull off a miracle return failed.
Smith said fullback Kurt Gidley would inject himself into the attack whenever he wanted the ball.
“Kurt’s got a licence to do pretty much what he likes in attack in our team so we’re hoping he can get himself in some good positions to get his hands on the ball more on Sunday,” said Smith.
Smith said Bailey, more of a ball runner than Mullen, would support halfback Scott Dureau in his first game of the season after playing reserve grade.
“He can play a similar role to Jarrod and call the shots,” he said.
“The halfback will call the shots and Bails (Bailey) will add onto that and call some shots, he does that well and he enjoys that role.”
Smith said he’d been impressed with young Brisbane half Peter Wallace who has zoomed into contention for the NSW Origin No.7 job.
“He’s a talented player with the ball in his hands and he has a neat kicking game,” he said.
“He’s doing a good job for them without Lockyer there.”