Cellar-dwellers Newcastle are banking on an injection of fresh blood to snap a seven-game NRL losing streak when they face an unpredictable Warriors outfit.
New recruits Brendan Elliot and Mitch Barnett are in line to make their club debut at Hunter Stadium on Saturday, just a few days after being released from their respective clubs.
Former Sydney Roosters youngster Elliot looks set to replace Nathan Ross (calf) at left centre, while an injury to back-rower Tariq Sims has opened the door for ex-Canberra Raider Barnett.
“They’re both young talents and have big futures,” halfback Trent Hodkinson said on Friday.
“They’ve come into the side, trained really hard and gone about their business straight away.
“It just goes to show the professionalism of them both so I’m looking forward to getting out there on the weekend and playing alongside them.”
The Knights have already used more players after 13 rounds than in the 2015 season, with 10 players making their NRL debuts.
They were smashed 46-16 by North Queensland at Townsville last Saturday but Hodkinson said the team had taken a lot of confidence out of the game.
A couple of late tries against the reigning premiers showed some promise and persistence, which they hope will work in their favour against the Warriors.
“You never know with the Warriors – they’re up and down and you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said.
“They’ve come off a great win against Brisbane but we’re back at home now and we’ll take a lot of confidence out of our last game.
“The feeling’s been good at training so we’ll give it a good crack.
“For us, we’ve just got to worry about ourselves at the start – the start’s really important against the Warriors. We’ve just got to stay patient … and control the speed of the game.”
The Knights have won just three of their past 15 matches in the Hunter.
The Warriors will field the same line-up that beat Brisbane 36-18 in Auckland last week, their best performance of the season.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Newcastle have won just five from 19 games against the Warriors since 2006.
* They are ranked the worst two defensive sides in the competition, with the Knights conceding almost 34 points a game and the Warriors nearly 27.
* This match marks Issac Luke’s 200th NRL appearance, 188 of which were played at South Sydney
(Source: Fox Sports Stats)