Confirmation tonight that the One New Zealand Warriors will meet the Panthers in the early game on Saturday when they play their first NRL finals match in five years.
The NRL has scheduled the contest for a 4.05pm kick-off (6.05pm NZT) at Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium.
It’s a repeat of the match-up when the One New Zealand Warriors last played in the play-offs in 2018.
The difference then was that the teams were in the bottom four of the top eight, the Panthers finishing the regular season in fifth spot, the Warriors eighth.
Played at ANZ Stadium, the One New Zealand Warriors made a hot start leading 12-0 after 13 minutes through tries to Issac Luke and David Fusitu’a but the Panthers rebounded to win 27-12 to eliminate the Warriors.
Playing at fullback for Penrith that night was Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who has had the best season of his career at the One New Zealand Warriors scoring 21 tries in 17 games.
Survivors from that Penrith side set to face the Warriors next Saturday are centre Tyrone Peachey, halfback Nathan Cleary, back rower Isaah Yeo and front rowers James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota.
One New Zealand Warriors players from that match still in the 2023 squad are halfback Shaun Johnson and middle forwards Tohu Harris, Jazz Tevaga and Bunty Afoa while they also have Watene-Zelezniak.
Since that campaign the Panthers have set the benchmark in the NRL, playing in three consecutive grand finals and winning the last two in 2021 and 2022 while wrapping up the minor premiership yet again this season.
With their top four finish this season, the One New Zealand Warriors have earned a second chance.
A win over the Panthers on Saturday would send them directly through to a home final in week three of the play-offs.
If they lose they will have a home final in week two against the winner of the elimination final between the Newcastle Knights and the Canberra Raiders.
The 2023 week one schedule will feature matches in Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle.
Match: Panthers v Warriors
Finals Week 1 -
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Warriors is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Sunia TuruvaWinger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Warriors is number 3 Rocco Berry
Centre for Panthers is number 21 Luke GarnerCentre for Warriors is number 4 Adam Pompey
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo Montoya
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jack CoggerFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 14 Dylan Walker
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Warriors is number 6 Te Maire Martin
Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses LeotaProp for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitch KennyHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Warriors is number 10 Mitchell Barnett
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Scott Sorensen2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Jackson Ford
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Marata Niukore
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Warriors is number 13 Tohu Harris
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone PeacheyInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Jazz Tevaga
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Lindsay SmithInterchange for Warriors is number 16 Bayley Sironen
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer LeniuInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Josh Curran
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Zac HoskingInterchange for Warriors is number 18 Freddy Lussick
Replacement for Panthers is number 18 Jaeman SalmonReplacement for Warriors is number 20 Taine Tuaupiki
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
The Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm kick off the series on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
After minor premiers the Penrith Panthers take on the One New Zealand Warriors at 4.05pm on Saturday afternoon, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks face the Sydney Roosters at PointsBet Stadium (7.50pm).
The Newcastle Knights meet the Canberra Raiders at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said it was an exciting finish to the 2023 regular season.
“The final positions in the top eight came down to the last match,” said Abdo.
“That is testament to the competitiveness of the premiership and the extraordinary football the players and clubs have produced all season.
“More than 3.7 million people attended NRL games this season. That’s the highest total in NRL history. The average crowd for the regular season ended 20 percent higher than last season.
“More than 128 million people have watched our games this season, making rugby league the most watched sport in the country on television by overall numbers.
“Thank you to all our fans for their support this season.
“Any team can win on any given day as we eagerly anticipate another exciting finals series.”
Tickets will be on sale for all matches to the competing clubs’ ticketed members at 10am (EST) on Monday (September 4), while tickets for the competing clubs’ non-ticketed members will be on sale at 1pm. Tickets for NRL account holders will be on sale at 4pm on Monday.
Finals series tickets will be on sale to general public at 10.00am on Tuesday (September 5) at www.nrl.com/tickets.
All matches in week one of the premiership series will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo Sports, 9NOW and Sky NZ.
NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series – Week 1
Qualifying Final: Friday, September 8, 7.50pm (EST), Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane Broncos (2) v Melbourne Storm (3)
Qualifying Final: Saturday, September 9, 4.05pm (EST), BlueBet Stadium
Penrith Panthers (1) v One New Zealand Warriors (4)
Elimination Final: Saturday, September 9, 7.50pm (EST), PointsBet Stadium
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (6) v Sydney Roosters (7)
Elimination Final: Sunday, September 10, 4.05pm (EST), McDonald Jones Stadium
Newcastle Knights (5) v Canberra Raiders (8)