Round 8: Sea Eagles v Knights preview
Both the Sea Eagles and Knights poured doubt over their premiership credentials last week with disappointing performances against lowly opposition.
While Manly rallied to take down Canberra after losing Tom Trbojevic a fortnight ago, it was a different story last week against the Sharks.
The Sea Eagles conceded 40 points for the first time since 2018 as they slumped to a 18-point loss which has them vulnerable on the edge of the top eight.
For Des Hasler's men, they simply need to get a win on the board to restore confidence and quell concerns they are hamstrung without Trbojevic.
Much of the leadership falls onto the shoulders of halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, who is no stranger to playing through adversity throughout his own career.
This week they face a Knights side that also took a giant step backwards last week.
Adam O'Brien said he had given the team a huge wake-up call prior to the clash with the Cowboys, telling them they were not nearly as good as everyone is making them out to be.
On Saturday they proved him right.
This was the Knights of old, conceding soft tries and looking a shadow of the defensive powerhouse O'Brien had seemingly transformed them into They are bolstered by the return of Bradman Best but he can only do so much.
Who to watch: Both teams will be looking for someone to stand up and take ownership after poor results and the halfbacks for each side look the most capable. Daly Cherry-Evans is arguably the most well-rounded playmaker in the game. His controlled kicking game and calming presence will be crucial in helping his teammates not become frazzled if the Knights strike early and doubts creep in.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Pearce has also been the natural leader Newcastle were crying out for as they spent years grounded to the bottom of the ladder. But he went missing when they needed him most last weekend. Kurt Mann is quickly improving and forming a strong combination with Pearce but the latter is the one this group will turn to when they need the big plays.
The favourite: Newcastle are slight favourites for this game.
My tip: It is more likely Newcastle's slip-up was a one-off. Manly's, on the other hand, threatens to derail their finals hopes if confidence continues to drop without Trbojevic. Des will have a plan up his sleeve but it doesn't help that they are playing a Knights team equally desperate to prove themselves. Knights by 16.