The first round of Sunday footy for the 2017 season sees the Warriors and the Newcastle Knights go head to head at Mount Smart Stadium. Both teams will be wanting to make an impact for their first game and will be coming out with a fighting mentality.

LAST TIME OUT

The two sides last met in round 14 of the 2016 NRL season. The Warriors came out on top with an impressive 50 points to a disappointing 14 for the Knights. David Fusitua played a vital part in the Warriors victory by scoring four of the nine tries scored throughout the game. Half time saw the Warriors leading 22-14 which meant the Knights were still in the game and capable of making a comeback in the second half. Although hope was soon crushed as the Warriors went on to score four additional tries in the final 40 minutes while dominating the game and refusing to allow the Knights to secure any more points on the board. The Knights will be looking to get vengeance on the Warriors and reclaim some respect that was lost in round 14 last season while the Warriors will be looking to kick their season off with a win which will be the first time since 2009.

KEY BATTLE

The key battle for the Warriors will be to maintain a strong performance from their forwards so that play makers like Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and David Fusitua are able to play at their full potential and turn their flare into points. Although the Warriors look as though they have the upper-hand with a stronger team, the advantage the Knights have over them this upcoming match is the traditionally awful performances the they usually display at the beginning of every season. Although the Knights have been battling through a rough period throughout the last few years, they generally kick their seasons off in a more convincing manner. The Knights have won four of their round 1 starts in the same period since 2009 whereas the Warriors had lost all. In addition, the Knights had a four-game winning streak at the beginning of the 2015 NRL season which began with a 24-14 conquest against the Warriors.

The Warriors have a lot riding on this game considering they haven’t won a round 1 game since 2009. With so much talk about the potential of their team this season, they will be determined to come out and play to the best of their ability. The Newcastle Knights still have a very young and somewhat inexperienced team as they have two players making their NRL debuts and five making their club debuts, I predict both teams will come out fighting but ultimately the Warriors will be the victors and secure the win they have been pursuing for the last seven years.

Warriors by 12

Squads

New Zealand Warriors vs Newcastle Knights at Mount Smart Stadium Auckland, 4.00pm (NZ) Sunday

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. Tuimoala Lolohea, 3. David Fusitua, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Ata Hingano, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Albert Vete, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Charlie Gubb, 11. Bunty Afoa, 12. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Simon Mannering interchange 14. Erin Clark, 15. Jacob Lillyman, 16. Sam Lisone, 17. Isaiah Papali’i, 18. Bodene Thompson, 19. Mason Lino, 20. James Gavet, 21. Blake Ayshford

Newcastle Knights: 1. Dylan Phythian, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Daniel Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Mitch Barnett interchange 14. Luke yates, 15. Jack Stockwell, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Brendan Elliot, 19. Tyler Randell, 20. Josh King, 21. Anthony Tupou