Newcastle will be out to use the emotional home farewell of departing skipper Kurt Gidley on Old Boys Day to spur them to a NRL upset win over Canterbury.
Gidley’s final game at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night doubles as his 250th milestone game, while winger Akuila Uate also brings up his 150th first-grade match.
In what shapes as a day of celebration for the club, the retiring Clint Newton, Gold Coast-bound Tyrone Roberts and Parramatta-bound Beau Scott will also play for the last time in the red and blue.
The Knights host the contending Bulldogs, who can hop from seventh to fourth spot on the competition table by the end of the weekend after South Sydney’s heavy defeat on Thursday night to Brisbane.
But first, they’ll have to defeat a Newcastle side rejuvenated under interim coach Danny Buderus.
Last week’s upset win over Melbourne gave the Knights back-to-back wins for the first time since March.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said on Friday.
“Danny’s got them firing, but they just look like they’re really enjoying their football.”
The Bulldogs will be gunning for a season-high fourth straight win, however Hasler has played down their recent upswing in form that has included the prized scalps of Brisbane and Souths.
“We’ve had one of those years where we’ve been up and down. We’ve been a little bit inconsistent, really,” he said.
“And you look at Brisbane last night, wow. We just need to keep building that momentum.”
After missing the Melbourne clash with a foot injury, Scott slots straight back into the second row for the Knights at the expense of Sam Mataora.
Centre Dane Gagai and lock Jeremy Smith have struggled with ankle and hamstring injuries respectively this week but neither is in doubt for the match.
Hasler ruled out an early return for injured players, Josh Reynolds (knee) and Aidan Tolman (hamstring), with both expected back next week for the final game of the regular season against the Warriors.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* A win in this match would bring up Newcastle’s 200th victory at Hunter Stadium in 332 games
* Canterbury are receiving the equal-fewest penalties this season (5.6 per game)
* The Bulldogs have won 10 of 11 games when leading at halftime this season
* Bulldogs winger Curtis Rona is just three tries away from equalling the club’s record of 23 in a season, scored by Ben Barba in 2011 and Nigel Vagana in 2002