NEWCASTLE Knights coach Adam O'Brien has challenged his players to atone for their poor first half showing against Melbourne after resisting the temptation to make significant changes for Thursday night's clash against Brisbane in Gosford.
In a boost, backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon has fully recovered from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the past three games and will come straight back into the starting side as expected on the left edge.
His return pushes veteran workhorse Aidan Guerra back to the bench at the expense of rookie Brodie Jones.
But while a number of players, headed by the likes of centres Tautau Moga and Gehamat Shibasaki, props Pasami Saulo and Josh King and playmaker Phoenix Crossland, are all knocking on the selection door, O'Brien, a former Batemans Bay Tiger, believes the players who have done the job prior to the loss to the Storm deserve another chance.
"No one was happy with the first half effort against Melbourne but we're giving everyone the chance to make amends against the Broncos," O'Brien told Australian Community Media.
"Fitzy is right to go and comes straight back in as the only change but we have spoken about the need for a response.
"I was pretty honest with everyone in our review of the Storm game.
"Now there is an opportunity there for the boys to rectify things."
Lock Herman Ese'ese was named in the starting side once again despite suggestions he could pay the price for some costly lapses in effort and concentration against the Storm.
Meanwhile, new signing Issac Luke has been named on an extended bench for the Broncos after officially linking with the club on Tuesday.
In a big blow for Brisbane, centre Kotoni Staggs has been sidelined after suffering a hamstring injury at training on Sunday.
Corey Oates goes back to the wing and Herbie Farnworth moves to the centres to cover for Staggs.
Alex Glenn and Tevita Pangai jnr return in the second row and Joe Ofahengaue moves to the bench, with Moruya's Rhys Kennedy out of the 17.
Knights hooker Andrew McCullough will take on his former club for the first time after being released by Brisbane only three weeks ago, a decision that has back-fired on the Broncos following the long-term injury to first string hooker Jake Turpin.
"A lot of that was driven from Macca, he wanted an opportunity to go and start in the number nine somewhere," coach Anthony Seibold said.
"Obviously at our club, he was behind Jake Turpin in that position.
"When Turps hurt himself a week later, you have some regrets in hindsight but ultimately, it was the right thing for Macca and our club at the time."
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