The Best of the Day preview grubbers some NRL tips into the in-goal ahead the first Friday night clash of 2019 – a mouth-watering duel between the new-look Newcastle Knights and Cronulla Sharks.

NRL Tips – Newcastle Knights V Cronulla Sharks

18:00 (AEDT) @ McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle

History: Played 52: Newcastle 27 V Cronulla 24 (1 Draw)

Last Meeting: Round 24, 2018: Cronulla 38 d Newcastle 12 at Southern Cross Group Stadium

Final Thoughts: Arguably the pick of a bumper schedule of NRL Round 1 showdowns, the ultra-hyped Newcastle Knights confront a long losing streak against the heavyweight Cronulla Sharks.

The Sharks have carved out eight straight victories over the Knights – five of them by 16 points or more.

The Knights will field recruits David Klemmer, James Gavet, Jesse Ramien, Hymel Hunt, Edrick Lee and Kurt Mann.

But the focus around the Top 8 hopefuls centres on young superstar Kalyn Ponga’s switch from the No.1 to the No.6 jumper. Has coach Nathan Brown weakened the fullback position – where Connor Watson now slots in – more than he’s strengthened five-eighth?

Valentine Holmes’ shock NFL defection quickly faded into the background when the Sharks managed to pick up Warriors talisman Shaun Johnson. Matt Moylan has switched back to the familiar fullback role. Elsewhere, Kurt Capewell and debutant Briton Nikora pair up in the second-row with Luke Lewis retiring and Wade Graham injured, and Josh Morris takes over new Knight Ramien’s centre spot.

But it’s been a tumultuous off-season for Cronulla, with coach Shane Flanagan’s deregistration followed by unrelenting salary cap-related drama. The 38-year-old John Morris is in the Sharks’ coaching hot-seat.

A Holmes hat-trick spearheaded a 48-10 demolition in Newcastle midway through 2018. The Knights also copped a 38-12 beat-down in their last-season visit to the Shire.

Winger Lee bagged a double for Cronulla in the latter but lines up for his Newcastle debut tonight against his old club, as does Ramien.

Newcastle went just 4-8 at home last season. Cronulla put together an 8-4 record on the road.

The Knights are the slightest of favourites. But count on the Sharks’ superior stability to extend their dominance of this rivalry.

Tip: Margin – Sharks 1-12 @ $3.25