Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is banking on a positional switch for Dane Gagai being the catalyst that helps his team avoid equalling a club record 13 straight losses.
Queensland State of Origin hero Gagai will play in the centres for the first time since round two when he shifts out of the fullback role for Sunday’s NRL clash against a resurgent Manly.
Jake Mamo will wear his preferred No.1 in his return from suspension against the Sea Eagles, which comes just two weeks after bagging two tries at fullback in a close loss to Melbourne.
Despite the Knights’ horrendous record at Brookvale Oval – they haven’t won a game on the northern beaches in over a decade – Gagai backed Mamo to wreak havoc from the backfield.
“Jake had a good game against Melbourne. He didn’t look out of place and looked very comfortable. He has good speed and has come a long way since playing on the wing,” Gagai said.
“He’s developed his passing game and has quite nice hands. I’ll be making sure I’ll be pushing up with him and don’t miss the jump because he has some wheels and can run.”
Gagai, who will bring up his 100th game for the Knights, said he is excited about the move wide.
“I’m looking forward to being back in the centres, being a bit wider and hopefully getting some early ball,” he said.
The struggling Knights are certain to pick up the wooden spoon following a dreadful campaign that has yielded just one win over the first 20 rounds.
They are just two more losses away from equalling the worst losing streak in the NRL era, set by the Wests in 1998-99.
However they are still a long way from threatening the longest losing streak in rugby league history, owned by University, who dropped 42 games straight between 1934-36.
But the Knights’ horror year won’t deter the Sea Eagles, who are now just four points out of the top eight, from attempting to continue their three-game winning streak at home.
“We certainly wont be taking anyone lightly. We are not in a position to,” coach Trent Barrett said.
Star centre Dylan Walker is an outside chance of being a late inclusion after completing training for the first time since breaking his hand in a late-night incident earlier this month.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Manly has won the past five, and six of the past seven, matches against Newcastle, with six of those wins coming by 16 points or more.
* The Sea Eagles average just 9.4 errors per game, the second best of any team. They also fail to complete just 2.2 sets per game inside their half, also second best in the league.
* The Knights concede the most tries, line breaks and miss the most tackles in the league this year.