Knights buoyed by NRL pacesetters test

Coach Adam O'Brien has his Newcastle side primed for their return home against Parramatta.
Coach Adam O'Brien has his Newcastle side primed for their return home against Parramatta.

Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien admits Sunday's test against NRL pacesetters Parramatta will be a true gauge of how they're travelling under his tenure.

In what will be the Knights' first match at McDonald Jones Stadium since March, O'Brien's men face an in-form Eels side that have won seven of eight this year.

Newcastle themselves have emerged as genuine a top-four candidate with just two losses so far this year, however both have come in the past month.

"It lets you know where you're at," O'Brien said of the clash.

"We're coming up against a really quality footy team, but we've shown ourselves to be a quality team this year too.

"And then to do it at home makes it even more exciting."

O'Brien said his team are ready for some home cooking.

"It's been a long time since round one," he said.

"The guys have done a really good job, it's been a pretty tough campaign, but they've got through it, put ourselves in a good position.

"But then now to do it back at home, I can tell they're excited to be back here."

O'Brien has some history with Eels counterpart Brad Arthur, with the latter having coached the former on the NSW south coast in the early 2000s.

Arthur is a fan of how his old mate has fared in his rookie campaign, and is aware of what impact the home support will have on their opponents.

"That's their first game with a crowd there for a while at the stadium. They've got plenty of support from the town behind them," Arthur said.

"Adam's done a really good job with them. They play a really disciplined, tough style of footy. They've got a simple approach to their game and it's working.

"They've got five (State of) Origin players in their squad. They're a good team and they've pushed every team to the death."

Both teams have been forced into some changes, with Eels duo Ray Stone and Oregon Kaufusi replaced by Nathan Brown and debutant Stefano Utoikamanu.

Knights pair Edrick Lee and Sione Mata'utia are out, with Tex Hoy and Brodie Jones into the team, and Connor Watson a certainty to return next week.

STATS THAT MATTER

* This is the first time these two clubs have met in the regular season while inside the top four since 2001.

* The Knights are aiming for four straight wins at McDonald Jones Stadium for the first time since winning seven in a row in 2014-15.

* Parramatta's 2073 combined metres last week is the third most on record for any club since records began in 1999.

Australian Associated Press