Knights enforcer Mitch Barnett will start on the right edge with Josh King gaining a bench reprieve after Sione Mata'utia was ruled out of Saturday's showdown with arch-enemy Manly at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Knights officials are tipping a crowd of close to 25,000 for the clash with interest at a premium and ticket sales high despite the side's three game losing streak.
"Given a fine day, I'm expecting it will be one of our biggest crowds this season," Knights CEO Phil Gardner said.
Mata'utia has been under an injury cloud all week after suffering a shoulder "burner" during the golden point loss to St George Illawarra last Sunday and has not fully recovered, prompting the change.
With fullback Kalyn Ponga returning home on Friday from New Zealand following a death in the family and declared a certain starter, Connor Watson will come off the bench after overcoming a knee injury. He replaces Kurt Mann, who will be rested to nurse niggling injuries.
Knights coach Nathan Brown said Mata'utia's withdrawal was not unexpected.
"We were hopeful Sione would be right with all the treatment he has been receiving but his shoulder isn't 100 percent so Barney comes into the starting side with Kingy now on the bench," he said.
READ MORE: Newcastle Knights
Brown indicated exiled forward Herman Ese'ese, who will again play NSW Cup today, is not too far off gaining a recall.
"Herman has had a bit of a spring in his step this week so I'll be watching both him and Tau [Tautau Moga] fairly closely in reserve grade to see how they go," Brown said.
"There is no doubt we need an in-form Herman to bolster the squad."
The Knights are desperate to snap a three game losing streak with a further loss against the Eagles certain to add to the pressure mounting on Brown and the team.
They face a tough away assignment against the Gold Coast next weekend who will be buoyed by their first won of the season on Friday night over Penrith.
Much of Newcastle's planning for the game has centred on stopping Manly's big forward pack, headed by props Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake and lock Jake Trbojevic, from dominating up the middle.
With Taupau and Fonua-Blake rolling forward and Trbojevic ball-playing off the back of them, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans becomes a much more dangerous proposition.
"It's easier said than done, they are all quality forwards but that is the task we have in front of us - to try and negate their influence a bit,"Brown said. "Defensively, we have been pretty solid so we're hopeful we cane compete hard and make it difficult for them."
The loss of fullback Tom Trbojevic is significant with his replacement at the back, former Knight Brendan Elliot certain to come in for some attention.
Elliot can expect to be a target for the high ball, along with his wingers Jorge Taufua and Reeban Garrick.