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“Biggest game” yet: Knights V Sharks

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Newcastle will take on the Cronulla Sharks at McDonald Jones Stadium tonight in what Knights coach Adam O’Brien labelled as the side’s “biggest game” of the season so far.

The Knights head into the round 17 clash on the back of last week’s punishing 36-6 loss to the New Zealand Warriors – a defeat O’Brien says was the squad’s worst performance of the year.

“We turned the ball over six times in the first 20 minutes coming out of our own end and had 33% possession – that’s going to take its toll, and it did,” he says.

The heavy defeat, coupled with Cronulla’s 28-12 win over North Queensland, means there’s now just one point separating the two sides on the ladder ahead of the finals in a few weeks’ time.

“It’s huge in terms of being able to right some wrongs from last week,” O’Brien says.

“Regardless of the ladder and time of year, I just think it’s just a really important game for us individually and as a club to bounce back from what we did last week.”

Young gun Phoenix Crossland has received the call up again this week and will be on the bench.

“Bringing Phoenix back in was a calculated move well before the Warriors,” O’Brien adds.

“I thought what Phoenix did for the 62 minutes straight, he looked a little bit banged up there, so I thought he needed to freshen up.

“He’s done a really good job for us.”

O’Brien was also quick to quash a Newcastle comeback for former Knight, Jarrod Mullen.

“Coming back to the Knights is going to be a tall ask,” he says.

“The squads are reducing – there’s going to be a whole lot of players that are currently in NRL squads searching for a team next year because they’re bringing it down to 28.”

The Knights’ clash with Cronulla will kick off at 6pm.

Newcastle squad for round 17:

  1. Kalyn Ponga. 2. Starford To’a. 3. Enari Tuala. 4. Gehamat Shibasaki. 5. Hymel Hunt. 6. Mason Lino. 7. Mitchell Pearce. 8. David Klemmer. 9. Kurt Mann. 10. Jacob Saifiti. 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon. 12. Aidan Guerra. 13. Mitch Barnett. 14. Phoenix Crossland. 15. Herman Ese’ese. 16. Josh King. 17. Brodie Jones.

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