Live updates: NZ Warriors v Newcastle Knights at Auckland's Go Media Stadium Mt Smart

  • 16/09/2023

Click here for highlights and a full wrap.

Kia ora and welcome to the Warriors' NRL finals sudden-death showdown with Newcastle Knights from Auckland's Mt Smart.

Few sports contests in New Zealand in recent years have been as highly anticipated as today's match. Warriors fever has swept the nation, and a win over the Knights would ensure their resurgent season extends into the preliminary finals and put them one victory away from a berth in the grand final.

Getting over the Novacastrians – who are riding a 10-game undefeated streak - will be no easy feat. But with a raucous, sold-out crowd behind them, the Warriors will be favoured to have their hands raised and advance to face Brisbane Broncos next Saturday.

Join us for all of the action from 6pm.

TAB betting odds: NZ Warriors - $1.54 Newcastle Knights - $2.40


NZ Warriors: 1-Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2-Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3-Rocco Berry, 4-Adam Pompey, 5-Marcelo Montoya, 6-Te Maire Martin, 7-Shaun Johnson, 8-Addin Fonua-Blake, 9-Wayde Egan, 10-Mitchell Barnett, 11-Jackson Ford, 12-Marata Niukore, 13-Tohu Harris (captain)

Interchange: 14-Dylan Walker, 15-Jazz Tevaga, 16-Bayley Sironen, 17-Josh Curran, 18-Freddy Lussick, 20-Taine Tuaupiki

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's roundabout journey to chase Warriors finals dream

Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad admits he doesn't have much recollection of the last time the Warriors hosted an NRL finals game back in 2008.

In fairness, he was eight years old.

"I think was just trying to play wrestling with my brothers back at that age," Nicoll-Klokstad laughed.

This weekend, he'll have the chance to be a part of a Warriors side who'll attempt to break that 15-year drought, when he runs out with the No. 1 on his back in front of a raucous packed house at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart. 

"It's one thing playing finals footy but having a home final – that's another thing.

"The crowd has been massive this season for us and I know it's going to be that much better come Saturday.

"We've had a few sellout crowds this weekend and Go Media Stadium is crazy to play at. I can't wait."

The match also represents an unlikely twist in Nicoll-Klokstad's rugby league tale – one he confesses he genuinely never saw coming.

Back in 2017, the Aucklander – after impressing for Melbourne Storm's SG Ball side – was snapped up by the Warriors on a two-year deal, offering him his first ticket to first-grade NRL.

But pigeon-holed as a wing, Nicoll-Klokstad failed to earn regular gametime, mired behind incumbents David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo in the rotation. 

Then the Canberra Raiders came calling with a lifeline which Nicoll-Klokstad grasped with both hands, afforded an early release from the Warriors to take up a two-year deal.

In the Australian capital and playing his favoured position of fullback, Nicoll-Klokstad took the competition by storm, as his Dally M-contending form helped the Raiders to a Grand Final berth in 2019.

It was a development that had Warriors fans up in arms, ruing the fact their club had let such a special talent simply walk out the door.

But as it turned out, they eventually got their man. After an ongoing neck injury had limited his impact with the Raiders, the Warriors swooped back in and rushed him back to his 'home' at Mt Smart, where he's recaptured some of his best form as a key component of the Warriors' revival. 

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad of the Warriors runs the ball during the NRL Qualifying Final match between Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Warriors at BlueBet Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Did Nicoll-Klokstad ever dream he'd be back in this position?

"No way," he said. "It was something that I wanted to eventuate but didn't know how it was going to eventuate.

"I remember my first year sitting in that stand over there, talking about wanting to be a part of the first grand final-winning Warriors team, and this is a big step towards making that a reality.

"It's been a crazy journey to be able to come home and be part of this great team and bring success to this club, and that was a massive drive for all of us coming here this year." 

Alongside the likes of Dylan Walker and Mitchell Barnett, the NZ Kiwis international has been a spearhead of a core group of off-season signings that have helped transform the Warriors from cellar-dwellers to title contenders.

Now the team finds themselves just two victories away from earning a spot in the biggest dance of them all – the first of which will need to come against the surging Newcastle Knights on Saturday.

Nicoll-Klokstad says he wasn't pleased with his own individual performance against Penrith Panthers last weekend – which has put then into sudden death status – and is eager to make amends against the Novacastrians, who are riding a 10-game win streak.

The primary driver of the Knights' success has been a fully-fit Kalyn Ponga, and Nicoll-Klokstad concedes the opportunity to test himself against one of the sport's premier fullbacks adds even more spice to this weekend's occasion. 

"When you come up against teams with fullbacks like Kalyn on their team it probably excites me a bit more – a lot more actually - because they have a certain status in the game.

"For myself, it's about making sure I prepare as best as I can and try give myself a chance to play as well as a I can against a fullback of such a standing in the game."

While he describes the Panthers result as a "hard one to flush", a week of training and video review has ensured confidence levels across the squad are riding high, as they embrace the opportunity to break the club's brutal 12-year stretch without a playoffs win.

"Rinse and repeat," he said of their approach this week. "Same process. Don't need to change anything. We're here for a reason. 

"The things that we've done week in and week out have got us to this occasion... why would you change those things?

"For us. it's about making sure we hone in on the things that add up to our preparation for the game and the result will take care of itself."