South Sydney will be looking to cement their place in the top eight against a Newcastle side that still have a chance of playing finals if they can finish the season strongly.
Newcastle are down in 12th place on the ladder having won just five games out of 15 so far this season but they are still in with an outside chance of making the top eight.
But they need to get on a winning streak, starting against the Rabbitohs in the Hunter on Friday night.
That will be easier said than done. The bunnies may not be the side they were this time last year, but they still have a side packed full of quality and will be determined to finish the season strongly.
Souths are seventh with a 8-7 win-loss record and there is still a chance they could push their way into the top-four this season.
So there is plenty at stake when the two side’s clash at McDonald Jones Stadium. Let’s take a closer look at both camps and where the game could be won and lost.
What: Newcastle Knights v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Where: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, NSW
When: 19:55 (AEST) Friday 8th July, 2022
How to watch: Channel 9, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Newcastle 6/4, South Sydney 27/50
Knights search for consistency
A big issue for the Knights this season has been stringing back-to-back wins together. They managed it at the start of the season when winning the opening two games, but have not done it since.
A promising campaign looked to be on the cards when they beat the Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers but went on to lose the next seven games on the bounce.
Adam O’Brien’s men have since recovered but consistency is still an issue for them as they attempt to string some results together.
They beat the struggling Gold Coast Titans with ease last weekend and will be hoping to build on that and go back-to-back against the Rabbitohs.
The week before the Knights ran the Raiders close before losing by just two points, so they are in good touch it would appear.
Their form has not been great in front of the home faithful though, winning just two at the McDonald Jones this season. They have also suffered some heavy defeats there against the likes of the Panthers, Storm and Sea Eagles.
However despite a troubled campaign they are only six points away from the eight and have a favourable run. Only two of their remaining games are against sides in the eight. The first being the Rabbitohs.
Newcastle are also boosted by the news that hooker Jayden Brailey will make his first appearance of the season from the bench after recovering from an Achilles injury.
Star centre Bradman Best is also back after dislocating his elbow. There are a couple of big absentees though with both Kalyn Ponga and Dane Gagai on State of Origin duty with Queensland.
In the absence of star fullback Ponga, Tex Hoy will again wear the No.1 jersey.
Mixed injury news for Souths
The Rabbitohs have also struggled for consistency this season and have slipped down the ladder following their grand final appearance in 2021.
It was always going to be a season of transition following the departure of coach Wayne Bennett and star playmaker Adam Reynolds, so the fact they are in the eight has to be seen as a bonus.
They picked up a great result when seeing off the Parramatta Eels 30-12 last Saturday and have a chance to close the gap on the top four if they can pick up another two points in Newcastle.
There is mixed news coming from the treatment room. The return of Latrell Mitchell from a hamstring injury is a huge boost.
The fact that he has turned down the chance to play Origin to focus on Souths is a huge plus. Had he not been out for so long he would have been with New South Wales, but still the decision proves his commitment to the Rabbitohs’ cause.
Mitchell will captain the side in the absence of Cameron Murray who is with the Blues camp ahead of Origin III on Wednesday. Jai Arrow and Damien Cook are also in camp.
Souths have been hit by the news that centre Campbell Graham will be out for up to two months with a facial fracture suffered in the win over the Eels.
He would have been up against Knights centre Bradman Best in one of the key battles of the night but Taane Milne will now take his place.