Injury-hit Knights must dig deep

Join Brett Keeble at theherald南京夜网.auSunday as he live blogs the Knights v Gold Coast game.
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MEMORIES of a victory earlier in the season will bolster a depleted Newcastle Knights line-up as they chase their first away win of the season against Gold Coast at Skilled Park tomorrow.

The Knights have more than 750 games of first-grade experience sidelined in the form of injured Danny Buderus, Beau Scott and Anthony Quinn and the suspended Jeremy Smith.

Skipper Kurt Gidley (back) and bench forward Neville Costigan (knee) will also need to pass fitness tests on Saturdayif they are to board the flight to Coolangatta.

But it was a similar story in round three, when veterans Gidley, Willie Mason and Timana Tahu were all unavailable and the Knights stunned North Queensland 34-6.

“I think it was against the Cowboys we got questioned there a little bit – but we held up then and played pretty well,” Knights forward Alex McKinnon said.

“That’s what we’ve got to do this week as well. We’re a pretty tight group and we’ve got good depth in the squad, so we’re pretty confident.”

Centre Dane Gagai, who will return from an ankle injury, echoed those sentiments.

“That’s the greatest thing about this year, is our depth,” he said.

“It’s obviously disappointing missing those experienced players . . . but we’ve got a lot of depth this year and that’s going to be one of our strong points.”

Gagai and McKinnon are bracing themselves to contain maligned Gold Coast forward Dave Taylor, who is named on the bench after being stood down for two weeks over disciplinary issues.

Taylor, one of the most devastating players in the NRL when he is in the mood, is expected to line up on the Gold Coast’s left edge and target Jarrod Mullen, Gagai and McKinnon.

“I’ve had him a couple of times and he’s pretty hard to get hold of, obviously,” Gagai said.

“He’s a big man. He tends to run down the edges and at the centres, so I’ll have my work cut out for me there a bit.

“I’ve got Jarrod Mullen inside me and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”

Asked about his plans to combat Taylor, McKinnon replied: “How do you tackle everyone else? Go as hard as you can. If you come off second best, work on that.”

Another Gold Coast player with a point to prove is halfback Albert Kelly, who played briefly in Newcastle’s NSW Cup team last year before the Knights sacked him for alcohol-related indiscretions.

McKinnon played alongside Kelly in the NSW under-16 and under-18 teams and said the Aboriginal playmaker was a special talent.

“I rate him as a great player,” McKinnon said.

“I played a lot of junior rugby league with him, a lot of NSW stuff, and . . . I remember as a junior he was always a star coming through.

“He could do everything.

“I still think he can do that at NRL level. We’ve seen in the last few weeks he’s been going pretty well.”

Tomorrow’s showdown shapes as an intriguing tussle between two evenly matched teams, both of whom have won four of six games this season.

Even their point-scoring statistics are very similar. Newcastle scored 128 and conceded 85, compared with Gold Coast’s 130 and 90.

But the Knights are still searching for their first win against a top-eight opponent and will be $2.40 outsiders to achieve that on Sunday.

Kurt Gidley will need to pass a fitness test on Saturday. Picture: Anthony Johnson