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Warriors brace for gruelling draw against finals benchmarks

The Warriors face a gruelling run home in their bid to make the finals, kicking off with one of the teams that playmaker Kodi Nikorima is one of the benchmarks of the Telstra Premiership - the Newcastle Knights.

Sitting four points back from the top eight in 12th position, the Warriors play current top-eight sides in nine of their remaining 10 games.

Nikorima believes Newcastle have earned the right to be called one of the NRL's best teams following a blistering two months where they have won seven out of a possible eight games.

With the exception of a loss to Melbourne last month, the Knights haven't dropped a game since round seven and head into Saturday's match against the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium within touching distance of the top four.

Nikorima said after going down to Newcastle 36-18 in Auckland in round eight, his side knew exactly what the men from the Hunter were capable of producing.    

"We have spoken a little bit about them, they are pretty much the benchmark team in the NRL right now, especially in their defence," Nikorima said.

"It started back when they played us, they had good line speed and it looked like they were really connected.

"We want to take a leaf out of their book and hopefully put the pressure on them this week, because they came here last time and they pulled our pants down.

"We don't want to let that happen again and will definitely be going there with a lot of energy."

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While last week's 19-18 golden point loss to Penrith has left their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Nikorima said it's vital his side doesn't dwell on what has happened in 2019.

"I actually addressed the leadership group on that [Wednesday] morning when we had our meeting," Nikorima said.

"I said there's no point in thinking about the results, because when you start thinking about that that's when errors occur and you do some silly stuff in games, where you try hard but the execution is off.

"For us it's just going out there and executing our plays, not so much worrying about the result in the end, but just executing every moment and just winning those big moments.

"Moving forward we are pretty positive and looking forward to this week."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney admitted he was happy to see former players Mason Lino and James Gavet flourishing after moving from the Auckland-based club to the Knights at the end of last year.

Gavet has become a mainstay of Newcastle's pack, playing 13 out of a possible 14 games this season, while Lino has impressed in his four matches at five-eighth.

Lino now shapes as Newcastle's key playmaker this weekend, with halves partner Mitchell Pearce to miss the game after being recalled to the NSW squad for Origin III for the injured Nathan Cleary.

"[Mason and James] have been presented with opportunities at the Knights and are both playing great footy," Kearney said.

"As an individual I am very happy for them and obviously I know the boys are happy for them too.

"But we will put that aside for Saturday night and make it really hard for them to try and get a good performance for themselves."

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