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Round 16 Match Preview: Roosters Return to the Hunter

The Sydney Roosters will make the trip up the M1 to face the Newcastle Knights for the only time in 2023 in a must-win match. 

Recent History: Sydney Roosters vs Newcastle Knights

On Saturday, the Roosters and Knights will meet for the 60th time in their 36-year-long rivalry, with Easts making the trip North to McDonald Jones Stadium.

Recent history favours the men from Bondi, who have claimed the two competition points in 15 of their last 18 encounters with the hosts. The Roosters also rank higher in venue results, possessing a 71% win record in Knights territory.

This season both teams have recorded mixed results, winning less than half of their games, so this week's match serves as the perfect opportunity to re-enter the winner's circle after both teams fell short in Round 15.

How They Line Up

Trent Robinson has named a new-look side for Round 16, to be co-captained by Luke Keary and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in the absence of James Tedesco who is unavailable ahead of Origin II.

Joseph Manu will line-up at fullback for the second time this season. Daniel Tupou, Junior Pauga, Corey Allan and Billy Smith join the New Zealand International in the back line.

Keary and Sandon Smith will be the halves pairing, with Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Turpin and Nat Butcher in the front row.

Egan Butcher, Sitili Tupouniua and Naufahu Whyte round out the starting side in the back-row.

The interchange bench features Drew Hutchison, Nathan Brown, Terrell May and Angus Crichton. Siua Wong, Zach Dockar-Clay, Jaxson Paulo, Tuipulotu Katoa and Elie El-Zakhem have been named on the extended bench.

Team Lists


  • Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
    Fullback for Roosters is number 1 Joseph Manu
  • Winger for Knights is number 2 Dominic Young
    Winger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
  • Centre for Knights is number 3 Dane Gagai
    Centre for Roosters is number 3 Corey Allan
  • Centre for Knights is number 4 Bradman Best
    Centre for Roosters is number 4 Billy Smith
  • Winger for Knights is number 5 Enari Tuala
    Winger for Roosters is number 5 Fetalaiga Pauga
  • Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Tyson Gamble
    Five-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Luke Keary
  • Halfback for Knights is number 7 Jackson Hastings
    Halfback for Roosters is number 7 Sandon Smith


  • Prop for Knights is number 10 Leo Thompson
    Prop for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
  • Hooker for Knights is number 9 Phoenix Crossland
    Hooker for Roosters is number 9 Jake Turpin
  • Prop for Knights is number 15 Jacob Saifiti
    Prop for Roosters is number 10 Nat Butcher
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Dylan Lucas
    2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Egan Butcher
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Sitili Tupouniua
  • Lock for Knights is number 13 Adam Elliott
    Lock for Roosters is number 13 Naufahu Whyte


  • Interchange for Knights is number 14 Kurt Mann
    Interchange for Roosters is number 14 Drew Hutchison
  • Interchange for Knights is number 16 Jack Hetherington
    Interchange for Roosters is number 15 Nathan Brown
  • Interchange for Knights is number 17 Mat Croker
    Interchange for Roosters is number 16 Terrell May
  • Interchange for Knights is number 20 Brodie Jones
    Interchange for Roosters is number 17 Angus Crichton


  • Replacement for Knights is number 19 Simi Sasagi
    Replacement for Roosters is number 19 Zach Dockar-Clay

Match Officials

  • Referee: Grant Atkins
  • Touch Judge: Belinda Sharpe
  • Touch Judge: Todd Smith
  • Senior Review Official: Matt Noyen

Last updated:

Knights coach Adam O’Brien welcomes Lachlan Fitzgibbon back to the second-row after he recovered from a calf injury, to replace Tyson Frizell who is on Origin duty. Newcastle have dropped winger Greg Marzhew for disciplinary reasons, calling on Enari Tuala to fill the empty spot on the edge. 

Key Match Up: Joseph Manu vs Kalyn Ponga

Two proud Māori All Star playmakers who provide plenty of spark in attack will go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon when Joseph Manu meets Kalyn Ponga.

Bringing versatility to the back line, both Manu and Ponga have stepped up in a number of positions for their teams this season, but this week they'll both be wearing the number 1 jersey.  

Manu, who claimed the 2022 Golden Boot award for his performance at fullback in the Rugby League World Cup will be raring to lead the Roosters to a victory in enemy territory this week. 

The 26-year-old has scored one try and assisted with another, breaking a whopping total of 57 tackles while averaging 125 run metres per match. 

His counterpart has the upper hand when it comes to bagging four-pointers, recording three so far this year, he also leads in try assists (6) and forced drop outs (3). 

The two live wires provide both physical strength and leadership to their teams, and in a must-win match this week, each Club will be relying on their fullback to step up to the task. 

What They Said

“We’ve just got to keep working hard and let our footy do the talking.” – Junior Pauga

"We’ve just got to go back to work this week and we can turn it around. That’s the good thing about rugby league, it’s a week-to-week game.” – Jake Turpin

Final Verdict

With the second half of the season officially underway, it’s time for the Roosters to turn their season around and re-enter the winner’s circle as the 2023 finals series approaches.

Roosters Members and supporters travelling up the M1 will be treated to a double-header this week, with the NSW Cup Roosters kicking-off Saturday’s proceedings at 12:40pm.

You can purchase your tickets for our Round 16 game here. If you can’t make it to Newcastle, be sure to attend Easts Bondi Junction, where you can enjoy a game day lunch at Artie’s or Olive & Oak. Easts are also running happy hour for two hours post-match.

It's not too late to Call yourself a Rooster in 2023! With five Sydney-based home games left of the season, sign up now to receive exclusive updates, offers, and access to events*.

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.