AFTER dozens of hours on buses and planes over the past six weeks, the Newcastle Knights have vowed to make the most of home-ground advantage when they return to McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday for their blockbuster showdown with competition leaders Parramatta.
It will be Newcastle's first game on their own turf since March 14, when they beat the Warriors 20-0 in the season opener.
Since then they have endured a 10-week hiatus because of the coronavirus shutdown and seven successive away fixtures at Leichhardt, Campbelltown, Gosford, Townsville and Brookvale, all of which involved travelling to and from the stadium on game day.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien admitted it would be a "huge" boost for his troops to be playing at home, especially with an expected crowd of between 7000 and 8000 providing parochial support.
"That's where we want to be, back in front of our fans," O'Brien said. "I'm sure they'll be right behind the team.
"And I can just tell by the way we've trained this week, the boys are all really excited to be back at home and they want to give the fans something to cheer about."
O'Brien has not complained about Newcastle's early-season schedule, instead taking the attitude that all teams were having to make sacrifices since the competition resumed.
But he was "really proud" of how they have coped with their nomadic existence.
"Had someone said to me at the start of the year: 'You'll be without up to seven of your first-grade players and have to play seven away games, but you'll be in the top four,' I'd have grabbed that every day of the week," he said.