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Knights primed for a big occasion, says Crossland

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Newcastle Knights hooker Phoenix Crossland admits he’s a “bit nervous” heading into this weekend’s elimination semi-final at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Another “sold out” crowd, for the third consecutive time in 2023, will welcome the in-form home side into battle against the Canberra Raiders on Sunday 10 September.

According to the NRL, more than 7,000 tickets went to fans in the first 10 minutes of going on sale on Monday morning.

Since then, that mark is veering close to 30,000.

The Captain’s Call for the NRL Telstra Premiership 2023 Finals Series. Photo: NRL Imagery

“I can’t wait,” said Crossland, who’s enjoyed a breakout season.

“It’s been sick there [McDonald Jones] all year, even though the past two weeks have been extra special.

“Every time you run out there, it’s incredible.

“So, for it to go up another level on Sunday, it’s something I’m a bit nervous about.

“There’s going to be a lot of expectation on the team, however I can’t wait.

“Everyone in the squad has noticed the talk around town and among the fans, so we’re keen to get out there and do them proud.”

It’s a big week for Newcastle and the Hunter region.

Even though the Knights participated in the 2021 series, it’s the first finals match at McDonald Jones Stadium since 9 September 2006.

In that game, the eighth Immortal Andrew “Joey” Johns inspired a late comeback to beat the Manly Sea Eagles.

But, Newcastle heads into this current showdown on the back of a sensational run of nine successive victories, which saw it surge from 14th place to fifth on the ladder.

Canberra, on the other hand, hung on to eighth spot despite losing its last two matches of the regular season.

“I’m super excited,” said Crossland, an Erina Eagles junior.

“It’s something new to me, so it’s pretty good… everyone’s smiling and happy.

“We’re sort of riding the wave.

“Obviously, it’s a huge few days ahead of us.

“However, we’ll just do what we’ve done, follow the processes, and negotiate each day as it comes until Sunday.

“We will be doing everything possible to put ourselves in the best position to win.”

Surprisingly, the Knights and Raiders have never met before in an NRL finals fixture.

Canberra will be without Josh Papalii (injured), Corey Horsburgh and Sebastian Kris (both suspended).

Retiring club legend Jarrod Croker is likely to replace Kris in the centres.

“The Raiders are a great team,” Crossland said.

“We’ve had some really good battles against them over the past couple of years.

“I think they’ll be just as excited as we are.

“I watched their game at the weekend and, honestly, thought they were unlucky not to win, even though it got away from them at the end.

“They played a great game of footy, they kicked into the corners and defended hard.

“It was very finals-like.

“It’ll be a really good match.”

The encounter kicks off at 4.05pm.

All games in week one of the NRL Telstra Premiership 2023 Finals Series will be broadcast on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo Sports, 9NOW and Sky NZ.

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