NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Date: Saturday March 7
Kick off: 12.10pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Live Fox Sports
1. Bryce Donovan, 2. Brody Lam, 3. Josh Birch, 4. Braden Robson, 5. Moa Uta, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Josh King, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Bradie Smith, 12. Jacob Saifiti, 13. Luke Yates. Bench: Noah Easton, 15. Faitotoa Faitotoa, 16. Ben Steven, 17. Jack Kelly, 18. Ken Tofilau, 19. Ben Stone.
1.Brad Abbey, 2. Tomas Aoake, 3. Marata Niukore, 4 Semisi Tyrell, 5. Paul Ulberg 6. Ata Hingano 7. Erin Clark 8. Bunty Afoa, 9. Nathaniel Roache (c) 10. Toafofoa Sipley 11. Ofahiki Ogden, 12. Matiu Love-Henry, 13. Jazz Tevaga Interchange: 14. Paul Tuli, 15 Tualima Tualima, 16 Tamati Loane-Niko, 17. Isaiah Cooper-Tetevano, 18. Sheldon Pitama.
Last time they met:
The last time the teams met was in the semi-final match at ANZ Stadium when the minor premier Knights were defeated by the Warriors 16-23. The loss ended the Knights’ hopes to progress to the 2014 Holden Cup grand final.
The NYC Knights will be determined to kick-start both the season and the triple header at Hunter Stadium in a positive way when they match up against the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday.
Team manager Craig Smith says the squad named is a complementing combination of players returning to the NYC in their second year as well as some fresh faces.
“For us in the under 20s, it’s the defending premiers and that’s no bigger test,” Smith said.
“It will be a challenge, but we are really happy with the way has trained and prepared.
“Our whole squad is a fairly strong, so against these big boys we expect to be fairly energetic.
“We are looking forward to start the day off well."
Outside backs Jack Cogger, Brock Lamb and Braden Robson are returning to the side after representing in the Australian Schoolboys European tour in November.
“They should be better for that experience,” Smith added.
Meanwhile, Danny Levi and Luke Yates re-join their NYC teammates after training fulltime with the NRL squad during the off-season.
“They look to be our big improvers,” he said.
“Someone that could jump out of the bag could be Bradie Smith who has just resigned with the Club as well as Josh King.
“They’ve all shown throughout the summer that they’ve been doing really well.
“Likewise, Toa Fitoa is a really hard worker and is energetic, so will be interesting to see him play his first game of 20s.”
Twins Jacob and Daniel Saifiti were praised for a significant transformation, reducing their weight from 135 kilograms to 112 kilograms over an eight month period.
Round 1 will also be all about ironing out any kinks.
“They’ve done the hard work to get there and have had really big off-season training wise,” Smith said.
“If we give the Warriors some of our ball, I think we’ll be in trouble, but if we look after all our ball, I think we’ll be fine, based on how hard we’ve worked.
“We think we have a squad that wont let us down on lack of effort.”
Where it will be won:
Completing their sets.
"It’s all about ball control and getting through sets, kicking long and defending well. That will be the decider at this stage of the season,” Smith said.
"If we can play mistake free football, we’ll be okay. Giving the Warriors a chance to throw the ball around will hurt any team."
To mark the reunion of the 1988 Knights, Mick Reid, NYC Knights trainer, who is a Member of the inaugural team, intends to address the young players before they take the field.
“That’s a big thing for our 20s and the players are going to recognise that on the day,” Smith added.
“Reidy will have a chat about what the Old Boys and what the Knights mean, so it will be a good start to the year.”