IT is not going to be an easy day for a fullback.
Heavy rain, whipped in by a southerly buster, is predicted to swamp McDonald Jones Stadium for the battle between the Knights and South Sydney on Saturday.
Knights fullback Brendan Elliot, starting his second NRL game in the No.1 jumper, got a taste of what to expect at training on Friday.
Rain sheeted in sideways, almost blinding. The Steeden danced like a kite, as Elliot took high ball after high ball. One of Brock Lamb’s clearing kicks, launched from his own 15-metre line was still travelling at pace when it rolled dead in goal.
“You put the ball up with this wind and weather and it can go anywhere,” Knights captain Trent Hodkinson said after training on Friday. “A big southerly swept up. When you are with it, it is good, it’s fun. When you are against it, it is tough.”
Adam Reynolds, arguably the best boot in the NRL, will be hoisting the majority of bombs for the Bunnies.
“The kicking game is going to be very important,” Hodkinson said. “Reynolds really controls the way they finish their sets, which is an important part of today’s game. It is going to be a tough day for wingers and fullbacks. We are going to have to do a job helping those guys out defensively. Just getting people around them, putting pressure on kickers Reynolds and Cody Walker, and Robbie Farah out of dummy half ... help them out as much as we can.”
Elliot was one of the last players off the training field on Friday.
The 23-year-old was near faultless in the drought-breaking 34-26 win over the Titans last round. He scored a try, threw the final pass for another, and was strong carrying the ball out of their own territory.
Although handling the new position “pretty well”, Elliot is expecting a stern test from Reynolds in the air and along the ground.
“I did do quite a bit of work there in pre-season and did go out there feeling confident,” he said of the Titans game. “A game is obviously different to training. I’m expecting Adams Reynolds to put the ball up a few times. If he puts it along the ground I have to be there, tracking him to claim the kick.”
The Knights’ last win over South Sydney was in 2011. Since then they have lost seven straight. Last year they were thumped – bullied – in a 50-10 defeat in round two. They fared marginally better, going down 34-12, in round 25.
“Last year was a disappointing year in that rebuilding phase for us,” Hodkinson said. “The improvement our big boys have made through the middle third of the field, I think they will be up for it. They won’t be intimidated.”
Hodkinson said they had taken confidence from the win over the Titans and would take a similar approach with the ball despite the wet conditions.
“Obviously, you have to adapt to the conditions and play a bit smarter,” Hodkinson said. “We won’t go into our shell and play the bash-up footy they probably want us to play. We will play some shape. When it’s on it is on. When it is not we will tuck it under the wing and take the smart option.”