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Newcastle Knights’ forward Mickey Paea returns to the NRL squad following a physically testing match in reserve grade against the New Zealand Warriors last weekend.

The reserve grade side had best intentions of presenting an improved team performance across the ditch, but were overcome by the Warriors 22-6 at Mount Smart Stadium. 

“It was a physical game. They have a big squad across the board so that’s good to be a part of,” he told Knights TV. 

“We went over there and competed against a team that was pretty stacked in terms of the players they fielded on the squad.

“I think it was a good challenge and good to get some minutes and some game time.”

Paea’s presence in reserve grade was welcomed by his teammates, especially after the exit of a number of experienced heads in 2015.

“It’s a challenge for myself to go back to such a young group and try to show that experience around the field,” he said. 

“It was tough, but I think it will do the reserve grade a lot of good. A lot of young kids stood up.

“Even though the score ended up being 26-6, we had a few opportunities to stick with them but the were too physical in the end.”

Paea is thrilled to prepare for a return to Hunter Stadium with the NRL side matching up against the Manly Sea Eagles on Monday, ANZAC Day. 

“I want to add to the squad and am excited to be back in the mix,” he said. 

“Hopefully I will bring to the team some good strong carries and try to help our forwards get on the front foot. 

“It will be exciting if I can do that.”

There will be no shortage of inspiration for the Knights with the match holding great significance for a number of reasons. 

It’s an exciting prospect for the forward to play in such a significant match up against competition rivals, Manly. 

“It definitely will (impact the game). Especially for the boys who have been involved in it in previous years,” he said.

“I remember the 1997 grand final, being a young kid and seeing Darren Albert score that try.

“It started the rivalry then.” 

The fact the game falls on ANZAC Day also means a lot to Paea.

“The ANZAC occasion itself is a big one so I hope fans get out for that,” he said.

“First and foremost, we want to put in a good performance and get our campaign back on the right track and put last week to rest and come up with a good result." 

He’s also honoured to play alongside joint captain Jeremy Smith who will celebrate his 200th game at Hunter Stadium on Monday. 

“Jez (Jeremy) is massive for this playing group,” he said. 

“I had the luxury of playing alongside Jez a few years ago at the Dragons and seven years in nothing has changed.

“He’s still a competitor and a warrior and well respected amongst the players and his peers.

“He’s one of those players everyone wants to play alongside. 

“We will want to do it for ourselves and our fans and want to give Jez something to remember on his 200th game.”

Monday April 25 – Round 8

Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles
Gates open: 11.30am
NYC: 11.35am
ANZAC Ceremony: 1.50pm
NRL: 2pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Game day information: CLICK HERE