nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown knows a lot of players are keen to impress in the Club’s trial match on Wednesday afternoon.
The Knights are set to play the Melbourne Storm in a closed trial at AAMI Park in what will be the team’s first hit out before the start of the season in March.
Brown said with a huge turnover of personnel in 2018, it will be a good indication of how the new squad is progressing.
“We’ve got a lot of experienced players who probably wouldn’t normally play in a trial this early in the year, but for us we’re in a unique situation with a lot of new players,” Brown explained on Tuesday afternoon before the team travelled south.
“It’s really important to try and build some combinations because the guys have been working hard at training.
“You always feel like you’re making some progress, but there’s nothing like playing.
“It’ll give us a good indication of where we’re at.”
Brown suggested most players will get limited minutes but said it will be a good chance to test out new recruits that have arrived at the Club.
“We’ve got a new hooker, new halfback, a new five-eighth and fullback,” Brown added.
“Most clubs this year, at the top level, have changed their halfback or five-eighth and we have about four.
“We’re certainly in a different spot compared to most clubs, but we’re looking forward to it.”
There’s also plenty of talent pushing on from last year’s squad.
“Danny Levi came back from the World Cup, while Jack (Cogger), Brock (Lamb) and Nick Meaney, they’ve all trained in different groups,” he said.
‘They’ve had a good shot at trying to build some combinations, but as much as I’m looking forward to Mitch (Pearce) and Connor (Watson) playing, I’m also looking forward to seeing Jack and Brock because they’re both definitely ready to play first grade.
“Brock showed at the back half of last year, he has got the potential to be a good player, which we all saw.
“Jack came off a bad pre-season last year and came right at the end of the year but physically and mentally he’s at a far better spot.”
With a stacked list of forwards available, Brown also has plenty of room to move with his big men.
“We saw how much improvement Mitch Barnett and Daniel Saifiti had last year and we’ve got to be hopeful that young (Sam) Stoney, Yatesy (Luke Yates) and Kingy (Josh King) will get that improvement too,” explained the Knights coach.
“They have all trained really hard in the pre-season and are going to be putting a lot more pressure on the established forwards.
“They need to get in some genuine competition and we’ll get more of an idea.”
After the Knights take on the Storm, they’ll have two and a half weeks to prepare for their second trial match against the Parramatta Eels in Maitland.
“That’s ideal for us, and then we have a week off before we play Manly in Round 1,” maintained Brown.
“In three weeks’ time, we’ll probably have a much better indication of how we’re travelling, and how the pre-season has been.
While 26 players are headed down to Melbourne for Wednesday’s game, some will get to stay home to continue their training in Newcastle, hopeful of being 100 per cent for the Eels encounter.
“Tautau (Moga) is someone we brought to the Club to play but is still recovering from shoulder surgery,” admitted Brown.
“Daniel Saifiti and Mitch Barnett aren’t playing, as well as (Dylan) Phythian.
“Dylan is probably a little bit away, but the others could be definite starters for Parramatta.
“There’s certainly some spots up for grabs and whether the guys play 20 or 40 minutes tomorrow, they need to make a good account of themselves, because we will have a lot less players against Parramatta.”