Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
19 hours ago
Knightly News - 27/2/2004
The Knights flew north at lunchtime yesterday, in preparation for their trial match against the North Queensland Cowboys tomorrow night.
Mackay Stadium hosts the long-awaited re-match between the two teams after their last encounter in the tropics, a bizarre 60-24 victory to Newcastle.
The Knights will field a near full-strength side, with captain Andrew Johns making his return to rugby league after a six-month layoff with a career-threatening neck-injury. The decision to investigate and subsequently rest the injury was made after the Knights played the Cowboys in Newcastle in Round 26 of the 2003 season.
Injury-prone international, Ben Kennedy had been set to make his own comeback from an ankle injury, until a training accident during the week put a halt to his long-awaited return.
The Knights trained indoors on Wednesday, due to heavy rain in Newcastle. But not even the dry conditions on the volleyball court proved successful in keeping Kennedy free from injury.
Kennedy rolled his ankle during a friendly volleyball game, and was initially feared to have broken his foot. Later scans revealed torn ligaments, but no breaks. This weekend?s trial was to be Kennedy?s return from a torn plantar fascia tendon in his left foot, after being cleared to play by his specialist on Tuesday.
Kennedy now faces the uphill task of being fit for the Knight?s opening premiership match against the reigning premiers Penrith, on March 12.
Kennedy?s injury list since arriving in Newcastle four years ago has included shoulder, ribs, hand, ankle, foot and hamstring strains, breaks and tears. Entering his fifth season with the club, Kennedy has played just 70 matches, including just 24 in the past two seasons ? less than half the Knights? scheduled matches.
Other injured Knights include; Matt Parsons (finger), Clint Newton (ankle), Andrew Price (unknown) and Craig Hall (knee and ankle) as well as Trent Salkeld who tore ankle ligaments in the Knights? latest trial against the Roosters in Nelson Bay.
Coach Michael Hagan said he was pleased with the trial against the Roosters.
?Our squad has come off a very good summer preparation and I think that showed when our younger players put in a strong performance against a strong Sydney City team last weekend,? he said on Wednesday.
?With some of our more experienced players on deck this week, I will be looking for the team to continue that momentum in what will be quite tough conditions in Mackay,? he said prior to learning of Kennedy?s latest injury.
?This time last year, we played the Cowboys in Cairns and it provided a very good work-out on the eve of the premiership and I?m expecting a similar result again this year.?
?The Cowboys have built up well during the off-season and I would certainly expect them to figure strongly in the semi final race in ?04?
?We certainly need to be on our game in time for round one. With five away games to start the season, our mettle will be tested from the outset.?
The Knights will conclude coaching clinics today in the lead-up to tomorrow night?s match.