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As a proud New Zealander, this weekend’s NRL Auckland Nines takes on extra meaning for Knights back-rower Jeremy Smith.


Born-and-raised in Christchurch, Smith is as passionate as anyone when it comes to his Kiwi heritage.


So as much as the Knights' enforcer is pumped at the prospect of playing in front of a packed Eden Park, he is equally excited about having the invaluable chance to catch up with family.


"It’s always good coming home," Smith said in Auckland on Thursday.


"I get to meet up with a few friends and family and play here in the nines, so I’m very excited.


"I’ll try and catch up with family, but there is so much family around and it’s sort of hard to get around to them all."


Newcastle arrived in Auckland late on Wednesday night and ramped up preparations for the nines tournament on Thursday.


Smith says the squad are all motivated and keen to test themselves in the new fast-paced concept.


"It’s pretty good at the moment and everyone is excited to get on the pitch and get into it," he says.


"We’ve got a outside backs that are pretty keen to get out there and showing their stuff.


"But we’ll just have to wait and see I suppose.


"The feeling amongst the team has been really good.


"There will also be a buzz around town I suppose once the boys get out there."


Asked how he'll fit into the nines format, which is expected to be dominated by speedy outside backs, Smith remains optimistic.


"Oh real good I reckon,” grins the veteran of 22 tests with New Zealand between 2007- 2012.


"It will be interesting. I just said to Wayne before I’ll probably sit out on the first little stint, see how it unfolds and see where I can slot myself in.


"It will be good though.


"It’s a good concept for the game and I suppose expanding the game is always a positive."


Smith is also looking forward to running out in front of over 90,000 fans at Eden Park.


He admits some teammates might be nervous about performing before such a big crowd, but has no doubts they can overcome any early nerves.


"I don’t know how the other boys are feeling, but I’m pretty excited," he says.


"I dare say it will be a little bit daunting playing in front of that many people when they haven’t before, but it will be a good atmosphere and good vibe."


Newcastle open their Auckland Nines campaign on Saturday morning (10.35am AEST) against Smith's former club Cronulla.


The 33-year-old can't wait to take on the Sharks and hopefully come out on top as a winner.


"I’m not sure what team they’ve got named, but it’s always good playing against your old club and some of the boys that you got along with really well," he says.


"They'll probably try to show me up, but hopefully that doesn't happen."