Excitement is building at the nib Newcastle Knights with the Club’s first trial match less than a week away.
Next Wednesday, the Knights are scheduled to play the Melbourne Storm in a closed match at AAMI Park, the squad’s first hit-out as they edge closer to Round 1 of the 2018 season.
Coach Nathan Brown is set to take a squad of 26 players to Melbourne.
“We’ve got a squad of 26 and Melbourne have roughly got a squad of 26,” Brown said.
“There’s going to be a number of players that play for 20 to 25 minutes, a number that will play half a game, but not too many players will play more half a game.”
The Knights coach admitted he’s eager to try out some new look combinations, while some of the younger players will also get to their time to impress.
“There’s a lot of different combinations to try; Slade (Griffin) at hooker with Mitchell (Pearce) at half and Kalyn (Ponga) at fullback, all three played for a different club last year,” said Brown.
“Connor (Watson) and Mitchell have played a little bit together, but the way they will play might be a little bit different to what they are used to at the Roosters, while still using some nice combinations they developed at the Roosters.
“We’re certainly in a situation where our key positions have four players that have never played for the Club, which is a little bit different.
“It’s a big change and one we’re looking forward to taking a look at.”
Meanwhile, with a list of players recovering from off-season surgery, Brown maintains some will have to sit this one out.
“Tautau (Moga) is ok, he’s a couple of weeks ahead of the other boys,” explained Brown.
“He’s been out doing a bit more contact than players like Daniel Saifiti and Mitch Barnett.
“Daniel came back into full training last week and Barney is back in now, but both won’t be playing.
“Dylan Phythian, with his knee injury, is another with first grade experience that won’t be coming, but if he was fit he would have been coming.”
Brown hopes their first trial will be useful to put some of the hard work they’ve been implementing at training, into practice.
“We want to put our offence training into practice and hopefully we’ll see some combinations develop in defence,” he added.
“I don’t think Melbourne is going to play Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, and I’m not sure if (Cameron) Munster is playing but they’re still going to have a lot of very good players who have been in the system for a very long time.
“They will challenge our defence, so that will be a good test for a lot of our younger guys and a lot of our newer players.
“It’ll certainly give us some indications of how we’re tracking and then with the Parramatta Eels trial, we’ll get a fair bigger indication by playing a smaller squad for much longer periods.”
The Knights will have a captain’s run on Tuesday before flying down to Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon, to play the closed match on Wednesday.