Newcastle winger James McManus is aiming to cap off a memorable 2013 with a first finals victory for the Knights since 2006.
McManus topped the NRL tryscoring charts alongside Penrith’s David Simmons with 19 and that form resulted in him being recalled to the NSW side where he played and scored in Origin III at ANZ Stadium.
The 27-year-old Scottish-born flyer returns to the venue on Sunday when his side face Canterbury in the second elimination final.
Wayne Bennett’s side warmed up for the game with a 54-6 hammering of lowly Parramatta last Sunday which was in stark contrast to the Bulldogs’ scratchy performance in losing to Brisbane 16-11.
Under Bennett, McManus has enjoyed his best season since making his debut in 2007 and said the experience of the seven-time premiership-winning coach at this time of the year will be crucial.
“We have a good mix of blokes who have been there and done it like Danny Buderus, Willie (Mason) and Jeremy Smith,” McManus told AAP.
“Then there’s guys like me who have played in a couple of finals matches and then we have Wayne who knows the formula and I think all of us can feed off that knowledge he has.
“I am really looking forward to the game.”
The Knights have beaten the Bulldogs twice already this season with their 44-8 win at Hunter Stadium in May a particularly chastening experience for Des Hasler’s side.
A furious Hasler hooked Sam Kasiano in the second half after he was overrun by the quick-footed Kade Snowden in the build-up to a try.
However, the Knights must do without their best prop who’s suspended for his shoulder charge that broke the jaw of North Queensland hooker Ray Thompson.
McManus admits Snowden is a big loss, but said the team have shown they can cope without him by winning their last two games in his absence.
“We know what we have to do. We have come up with a formula that has worked twice against the Bulldogs this year,” he said.
“We know exactly what that is – but it’s up to the players now to execute it for a third time.
“Snowy is a big loss, but blokes like Willie and David Fa’alogo have shown they can fill the breach.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better year personally and and it would be great to keep it going on Sunday night.”