Knights blood seventh halves duo - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Knights blood seventh halves duo

Steve Jancetic 16/07/2011 05:03:56 PM Comments (0)

It's the seventh different halves combination run out by Newcastle this season, but coach Rick Stone claims rookie Ryan Stig and Jarrod Mullen are more than capable of getting the Knights' NRL campaign back on track.

A reoccurrence of a hamstring injury to skipper Kurt Gidley in Monday night's loss to North Queensland has resulted in yet another pairing being thrown together, with Stig and Mullen to face a tough ask against high-flying Manly at Ausgrid Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

After starting the season alongside St George Illawarra recruit Beau Henry - who has since been moved on to Gold Coast - Mullen has also found himself partnered with Gidley as well as one game with rookie Tyrone Roberts.

Gidley and Henry also played one game together in the No.7 and No.6, while the skipper also had a one-off with Stig on his debut against Penrith in round 15.

Stig and Roberts paired up for back-to-back wins over the Sydney Roosters and Dragons in rounds 16 and 17 before the first-choice combination of Gidley and Mullen was reinstated against the Cowboys.

While the loss of Gidley - who is expected to miss just the one game - does hurt, Stone said his new-look playmaking duo was up to the task.

"They've both got a decent running game, they're both a threat ... (Stig's) learning, he's maturing and he's gaining confidence every week," Stone said.

"(Gidley's) a valuable player and any time we haven't got him there's a difference.

"The boys have been stepping up the last few weeks without him so they need to do it again."

The Knights are 3-3 without Gidley in the line-up in 2011, the winning ratio matching the 5-5 record with him.

But up against a Sea Eagles side pushing for a top two finish, Newcastle have their work cut out for them.

"Getting towards this end of the year, the mathematics is starting to come out," Manly co-captain Jason King said.

"Everyone is starting to count how many games they need to win to be where they want to be on the ladder."

Offsetting the loss of Gidley is the expected return of Isaac De Gois, Evarn Tuimavave and Neville Costigan, who have all been named in the starting line-up.

The Sea Eagles welcome back fiery centre Steve Matai from a one-game ban.

There is also speculation NSW Origin representative Will Hopoate could make a surprise return from a hamstring injury suffered while representing the Blues back on June 15, with either Michael Robertson or David Williams likely to make way if he is passed fit.

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