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NRL: Panthers begin title defence

Week one of the new NRL season will continue on Friday night when the New Zealand Warriors take on the Newcastle Knights, while the Penrith Panthers entertain the Brisbane Broncos.

The campaign opened with a cracker on Thursday night as Parramatta Eels and Melbourne Storm took the game to golden point at CommBank Stadium.

It was the Storm who got over the line, quite literally, as Harry Grant showed great strength and skill to score the try that sealed 16-12 win. If the rest of the season is anything to go by we are in for another cracker. Now we can turn our attention to Friday with two massive games on the agenda.

Both the Warriors and Knights struggled last season and it is important they get off to a good start in 2023 or it could be another tough campaign ahead.

Then in the later game it is the reigning premiers Penrith in action against the Broncos. Penrith are out to win the three-peat but are still licking their wounds from the World Club Challenge defeat against St Helens.

The Broncos on the other hand have a point prove after crashing from fourth place on the ladder to miss out on finals altogether in 2022. It is all set up for a big night of action so let’s take a closer look at both games.

What:New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights
Where:Sky Stadium
When:18:00 (AEST) Friday 3rd March 2023
How to watch:Foxtel, Kayo 
Odds:Warriors 1.56, Knights 2.45

The Warriors head into the season with rookie coach Andrew Webster and they will need to get off to a strong start against the Knights.

Webster has seen his list bolstered with a host of new arrivals but it remains to be seen if they will be up to the job. Everyone will get a good idea after Friday night’s game.

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The one big plus is that they are back playing in Wellington for the first time since 2019 and can expect a huge crowd backing them all the way at Sky Stadium. New boys Marata Niukore, Dylan Walker, Mitch Barnett, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Te Maire Martin are all set to figure, but they will be missing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who is a late withdrawal because of a calf injury.

The Knights are another side that are in need of a good start after a disappointing 2022 that started very well before plummeting.

There is still a lot to look forward to for the Knights. For starters they do of course have one of the best players in the comp in Kalyn Ponga but he needs to stay fit and raise his game if the Knights are to improve this season.

The Knights may have lost David Klemmer but they have gained Jackson Hastings from the Wests Tigers and landing the playmaker is a huge boost. Ponga and Hastings will play together in the halves in an exciting new partnership. Dane Gagai is missing for the Knights as he battles with a hamstring injury.

What:Penrith Panthers v Brisbane Broncos
Where:BlueBet Stadium 
When:20:05 (AEST) Friday 3rd March 2023
How to watch:Channel 9, Foxtel, Kayo 
Odds:Panthers 1.20, Broncos 4.60

The Panthers are targeting a third straight NRL Grand Final win but will have to do it without the likes of Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau who have both moved on to pastures new.

However the Panthers have seen stars players leave in the past and have managed to replace them just fine. They will be confident of doing the same again in 2023.

They will also be smarting still after losing the World Club Challenge against St Helens and will be keen to make amends by putting on a show for the Panthers faithful. Penrith have been boosted by the news that Liam Martin and Dylan Edwards have recovered from knee and hamstring injuries respectively and are set to come into the side.

There is no Taylan May who has been ruled out for the season so Sunia Turuva will take his place on the wing. Brisbane looked a sure thing for finals last season after an electric start that saw them sit in the top four but they faded badly to miss out on the eight altogether.

They will be out to make up for it this year and again have a roster packed with talent. New marquee signing Reece Walsh is not fit to start so Selwyn Cobbo will start at fullback.

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