Almost six months since their last premiership match, the nib Newcastle Knights are back at McDonald Jones Stadium to kick-off the 2019 NRL season.
Fielding seven new signings, headlined by incumbent Australian front rower David Klemmer, the Club will be out to continue a strong opening round record dating back to 1988.
Cruelled by a costly run of injuries last season, coach Nathan Brown has high hopes for the side in his fourth year in charge but wants supporters to keep expectations in check over the opening rounds.
The Big Questions: Who is your look-a-like?
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Date: Friday March 15
Canterbury Cup: 3.45pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Match: Knights v Sharks
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
1. Connor Watson, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Jesse Ramien, 4. Hymel Hunt, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Kalyn Ponga, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Danny Levi, 10. James Gavet, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Sione Mata'utia, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Kurt Mann, 15. Aidan Guerra, 16. Mitch Barnett, 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Jamie Buhrer, 19. Herman Ese'ese, 20. Josh King, 21. Brodie Jones
1. Matt Moylan, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Sione Katoa, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Kurt Capewell, 13. Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: 14. Blayke Brailey, 15. Jayson Bukuya, 16. Aaron Woods, 17. Jack Williams, 18. Scott Sorenson, 19. Kyle Flanagan, 20. Bronson Xerri, 21. Braden Hamlin-Uele.
Old guard welcomes the new
ONCE A SHARK, NOW A KNIGHT
Be The Player: 18/19
Playing leading roles in Cronulla’s fourth-placed finish last year, new signings Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee will be looking to show their former teammates how strong Newcastle can be this season.
Crossing for 22 tries combined in 2018, the Indigenous All Stars representatives look set to quickly become fan favourites at McDonald Jones Stadium through their blistering speed and tendencies for finding the try line.
The addition of two of the best attacking players in the league should see new Sharks coach John Morris identify the pair as danger men.
OPENING ROUND RECORD
Fan profile: Behind the armour
Recording the Club’s first opening round victory since 2015 courtesy of a golden point field goal against Manly last year, coach Brown will have plenty of confidence in his side coming away with two competition points on Friday night.
Holding a strong record in Round 1 fixtures with 19 wins, 10 losses and a draw over the past three decades, the Knights have met the Sharks at home in the first round on two previous occasions.
Producing a 28-8 victory in 1991 and following it up with a narrow 6-4 result in 1995, the Knights also came away with two competition points against Cronulla in 1996, as a result of the Super League-aligned Sharks forfeiting the opening match of the season.
Adding to Newcastle’s hopes of producing their first win at home since July last year, the Sharks have been notorious slow-starters over the past five years, with their last Round 1 win being in 2013.
THE REAL DEAL
Producing an underwhelming trial showing against the Sharks a fortnight ago, the Knights will be out to make amends under NRL conditions.
Undone by multiple errors and conceding penalties while in possession during the 30-6 loss, the opportunity to address the shortcomings of the Maitland trial should stand the side in good stead to finish Round 1 inside the top eight.
Coming into the opening match of the season under similar circumstances 12 months ago, coach Brown will be sure to remind his squad that a poor trial performance can be turned around by adhering to the ethos established by foundation coach Alan McMahon three decades ago -‘Be the player everyone wants to play with.’
Knights v Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Tex Hoy, 2. Star Toa, 3. Mitch Andrews, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Kiah Cooper, 6. Chris Randall, 7. Phoenix Crossland, 8. Jirah Momoisea, 9. Zac Woolford, 10. Josh King, 11. Beau Fermor, 12. Brodie Jonesm 13. Zac Hosking. Interchange: 14. Jacob Gagai, 15. Sam Stone, 16. Tevita Alifa, 17. Ben Thomas.
FREE SHUTTLE BUS
Catch the stadium shuttle service to get to nib Newcastle Knights games at McDonald Jones Stadium in 2019.