Match preview: Warriors v Knights

The Warriors are set to play their first game in Wellington since round 18, 2019 when a Blake Green field goal gave them a 19-18 win over the Sharks.

After a long stint away from home due to the COVID pandemic, the Warriors can expect huge support at Sky Stadium on Friday night and then at Mt Smart for clashes against the Bulldogs (round 4), Cowboys (round 7) and Roosters (round 9).

With new coach Andrew Webster at the helm and a number of key signings, the Warriors will look to hit the ground running as they look to return to the finals for the first time since 2018.

The Knights have plenty of experience coming on board through Adam Elliott and Jackson Hastings, while Kalyn Ponga moves closer to the action at five-eighth and his combination with former Tiger Hastings will be critical to Newcastle's chances of climbing the ladder from 14th last year.

One thing the Knights have done well in recent times is start fast, having won their past five Round 1 games, against the Roosters in 2022, Bulldogs in 2021, Warriors in 2020, Sharks in 2019 and Sea Eagles in 2018.

Team News
Warriors: A change 24 hours out from kick-off with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak dropping out due to a calf injury and his place on the wing taken by Edward Kosi. New recruits Marata Niukore, Dylan Walker, Mitch Barnett, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Te Maire Martin headline a new-look Warriors team. Centre Brayden Wiliame has been named to play his first NRL game since round 18, 2021 following a stint in French rugby. Former Dragon Jackson Ford makes his club debut in the back row. Taine Tuaupiki and Ronald Volkman were cut from the squad on Thursday and Viliame Vailea is 18th man.

Knights: No changes to the 17 in Thursday's 24-hour update with Brodie Jones, Dylan Lucas and Bailey Hodgson dropping out of the extended squad. Superstar Kalyn Ponga steps out in the No.6 at NRL level for the first time since round 3, 2019. Ponga teams with new recruit Jackson Hastings in the halves and Lachlan Miller makes his club debut at fullback. Centre Dane Gagai (hamstring) will miss the game, his place taken by Enari Tuala, who has recovered from a pectoral injury. Adam Elliott (ankle) and Jack Hetherington (shoulder) are good to go on the bench. Phoenix Crossland has grabbed the No.14 role.

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