NRL match preview: Round 1

The new NRL season finally kicks off this week, and for nib Newcastle Knights fans there’s much cause for excitement.
 
The Club is set to debut nine new players, the most in red and blue history barring the inaugural year of 1988.
 
After a tough few years coach Nathan Brown has a team that he can truly call his own, although he has cautioned fans that his new-look side will need time to gel.
 
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
 
Date: Friday March 9
Gates: 3.30pm
Kick-off: 6pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Referee: Adam Gee
 
HEAD-TO-HEAD
 
Played: 48
Knights: 17
Manly: 31
 
TEAMS
 
Newcastle
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Herman Ese’ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Brock Lamb, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer, 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Ken Sio, 19. Jacob Saifiti, 20. Danny Levi, 21. Luke Yates.
 
Manly
1. Tom Trbojevic, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Matthew Wright, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Lachlan Croker, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 9. Api Koroisau, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Joel Thompson, 12. Curtis Sironen, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Lewis Brown, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Frank Winterstein, 17. Kelepi Tanginoa, 18. Brad Parker, 19. Jackson Hastings, 20. Jack Gosiewski, 21. Lloyd Perrett.

THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR


With the Club’s new recruits comes plenty of experience, and in Round 1 a team will run out that has played 1,736 NRL matches.
 
While that number isn’t high compared to some other teams in the competition, in Round 26 of last season the red and blues fielded a side that had well short of 1,000 NRL matches of experience.
 
Experience nearly always makes a difference in such a tight competition as the NRL, but it will be the new players’ understandings of each other that will decide how well Friday’s encounter goes.
 
“We’ve certainly got enough experienced players to handle it, our combinations will still take work but under pressure how that comes up only time will tell,” coach Nathan Brown said on Tuesday.

“The guys are buying into where we want to go so at least we have the experience and the cool heads there.”
 

FAMILIAR FACES TAKE ON THEIR OLD TEAMS


On Friday Jamie Buhrer will be coming up against his former club for the first time, while Manly’s Akuila Uate will be playing at McDonald Jones Stadium for the first time since swapping the red and blue for maroon and white.
 
Both were well respected by fans of their old teams while playing there, but like all players will want to do well against their former clubs.
 
Uate was the difference between the two sides when Manly won at Brookvale Oval last year, his phantom try earning plenty of ire from Knights fans.
 
Buhrer was bitterly disappointed to miss that match as he was recovering from a broken foot, but is sure to put in a typically whole-hearted performance this time around.

DIFFERENCE MAKERS


Both sides will be fielding hugely experienced halfbacks with representative experience on Friday in Mitchell Pearce and Daly Cherry-Evans.
 
Last year Pearce played 21 games, scored seven tries and made 14 try assists, while Cherry-Evans played 24 matches, scored six tries and made 19 try assists.
 
Manly were keen on bringing Pearce to Brookvale before the Knights snatched him up back in November, and the Novocastrian faithful will be hoping the halfback rubs some salt in the wound with a strong performance in Round 1.