Wests Tigers back-rower Chris Lawrence admits it's going to be a weird feeling coming up against long-time friend Robbie Farah when the Tigers take on the Rabbitohs in Friday night's blockbuster at ANZ Stadium.
Lawrence and Farah had played together for more than a decade at the Tigers and were teammates for City Origin and the Kangaroos in the 2011 Four Nations, but this week will face off against each other for the first time in their careers.
"For me personally, it's going to be a bit weird," Lawrence said.
"It's probably no surprise that the game [against South Sydney] was going to be the first one.
"It was always going to be a big game and to have it against Robbie is going to make it a great atmosphere and really exciting.
"I've played all my footy with Robbie and have never played against him but after the first couple of minutes and tackles it will just be like a regular game."
Farah's exit from Concord created a lot of headlines in the off-season and Lawrence said the current New South Wales hooker would be up for the challenge but noted that the Tigers were well aware of his playing style.
"Robbie's game hasn't really changed much since he started playing. He's a really fierce competitor and he likes to run the ball and create opportunities," he said.
"We're expecting the same and for him to really run off the back of those big forwards and we're just going to have to prepare for that.
"He's a really competitive guy no matter what game it is. Obviously not just because it's us, but it's his first game for his new club so he's going to be fired up and wanting to put in a good performance."
South Sydney were dealt a blow late last week, losing halfback Adam Reynolds for the opening month of the competition with appendicitis, but Lawrence said the Rabbitohs would still be tough opponents this week.
"Whatever side they throw at us is going to be a strong one," he said.
"They've got a really strong pack and obviously with Robbie there that's just going to add to that."
Veteran Wests Tigers hooker Matt Ballin continues to race the clock in time for Friday night's game, with Matt McIllwrick and Jacob Liddle also joining the squad for training on Monday.
"He (Ballin) hasn't played any trials but he's done every bit of contact for the last month or so. His fitness and the amount of contact done has been fine but I'm not quite sure," Lawrence said.
"We've got today and tomorrow so no doubt he will be tested out in the next couple of days with a decision to then be made."
This article first appeared on NRL.com