KNIGHTS rookie Starford To'a faces a likely aerial barrage when he marks high-flying Rooster Daniel Tupou in tonight's blockbuster clash at the SCG.
To'a, the 20-year-old winger from Auckland, has kicked off his NRL career in impressive fashion by scoring five tries in six games, including a double in last week's 38-10 hammering of Cronulla.
But he faces his toughest test tonight when he lines up against the towering Tupou, a veteran of 170 top-grade games and three grand final triumphs.
At 1.96 metres, Tupou stands 13 centimetres taller than To'a and is regarded as one of the NRL's premier high-ball specialists.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien had the option of choosing Edrick Lee, who is the same height as Tupou, to oppose the former NSW Origin flanker.
Lee has been cleared to resume after missing nine games with a broken arm, but he is regarded as a left-side specialist.
The other option for O'Brien would have been to leave Hymel Hunt on the right wing, but the coach has decided to rest Hunt, who has not missed a game since the start of last season.
Instead O'Brien has shown faith in To'a, who filled in on the left while Lee was sidelined but prefers to play on the right edge, which will put him in a head-to-head showdown with Tupou.
To'a described the Roosters as "the pinnacle" but is full of confidence after stringing together five consecutive games, four of which the Knights have won.
"Coming up against Toops, I think that will be really good for me," he said. "I can't wait, and especially Sonny Bill Williams, too, he's a childhood hero that I looked up to. It'll be good to play against him."
The Knights, who will be without in-form Kalyn Ponga, are $8 long shots with the bookies, having lost 11 of their past 13 matches against the Roosters, including a 48-10 shellacking at the SCG last year.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
- Former Knights lower grade player Joel Dark passes away in hospital after suffering an on-field seizure
- Toohey's News, The Podcast Ep. 27: Michael Ennis
- A-League: Topor-Stanley screamer rewarded as Italian collects player of year gong
- Surfing: Morgan Cibilic weighs up Tweed Coast Pro return
- Aidan Guerra tells Newcastle Knights teammates of his decision to retire at season's end