Newcastle Knights co-captain Jamie Buhrer expects Friday night's season opener against Manly Warringah Sea Eagles to be an old-fashioned grudge match between the old rivals.
The former Sea Eagles forward said despite plenty of new faces in both sides, the fans and past players would not let them forget about the history between the two teams dating back to the late 1980s.
"There’s always been that hatred and that juicy match up for fans in years gone by," Buhrer said.
"That’s what makes rugby league so great is that rivalry.
"The best match-ups are the rivalries that you look for as a fan.
"It’s great for the game, the players and the fans and I know they’ll be really loud and proud while hoping to give it to the Manly boys."
Buhrer will start off the bench but believes the key for Newcastle will be countering the size and physicality of the Sea Eagles.
"With the addition of Joel Thompson he gives them more depth as he’s a great player," Buhrer said.
"They’ve got a very imposing forward pack, the Trbojevic brothers and Daly Cherry-Evans.
"I think those three along with their forward pack is the key to stopping them."
Mitchell Barnett has been selected at lock for the hosts despite not playing throughout the pre-season due to a shoulder injury.
"Nerves are starting to kick in but I’m looking forward to it," Barnett said.
Match: Knights v Sea Eagles
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Knights coach Nathan Brown had no hesitation in selecting Barnett despite his light preparation.
"It’s a massive confidence booster for me as I was still shocked when he gave me the green light," Barnett said.
"I’ve just got to pay him back and the boys, do my job out there.
The 2017 Danny Buderus Medal winner wants to take his game even further in 2018.
"I’ve got to pick up on little things that were getting me down last year.
"So, I just need to continue learning along the way and hopefully my game continues to grow."