Mitchell Pearce is ready to lead the Roosters to another Grand Final. Picture: Gregg Porteous/dailytelegraph.com.au
Sydney Roosters v Newcastle Knights
Saturday June 14 – 7:35 PM (AEST)
The Sydney Roosters are usually dreading this time of the year. Given Mitchell Pearce is normally in Origin camp, the Chooks have to use make-shift halves to cover for him. But with the Blues opting to head in a different direction, Pearce will run out for the Roosters on Saturday against the Newcastle Knights instead of heading to Coffs Harbour for the Origin camp.
The Roosters are starting to reap the benefits of keeping their halves over the Origin period. Last year, both Pearce and James Maloney were in the NSW side, and the Chooks lost some momentum. This year both Pearce and Maloney are free from rep commitments and can focus on the Premiers going back-to-back. Daniel Tupou, Micheal Jennings and Aiden Guerra have all been called up for Origin, with Mitch Aubusson and Nene McDonald covering the left side, and Dylan Napa starting in the back row for Guerra. Kane Evans replaces Napa on the bench, with Daniel Mortimer and Willis Meehan added to an extended bench.
The Knights have no answers for their poor form as of late. Even their captain Kurt Gidley is lost for words. With so much talent in their side, they have only two wins for the season. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even though he is out for Origin, Darius Boyd is starting to hit some scintillating form. From a kick game point of view, Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts are among the best in the league. Willie Mason and Robbie Rochow are powerful up front. All they need to do now is to find a way to gel. Jake Mamo slots into fullback for Boyd, Chris Houston starts in the second row for Beau Scott (Origin), with Clint Newton coming onto the bench for his first game for the Knights since 2007.
This encounter will be just too much for the Knights to handle. Any team with an in-form Sonny Bill Williams in their side has a massive advantage from the start. It's hard not to see the Roosters crowing loudly at the end of this one.
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