Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown will use Wednesday’s closed-doors trial to test combinations but he will use the second trial on February 24 at Maitland to finalise his round-one squad.
After three straight wooden spoons, Brown’s new-look Knights will begin their road to Telstra Premiership redemption on with a trial against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
Brown will use the match to cast his eye over where his team stands a month out from the start of the season.
Five-eighth candidates Brock Lamb and Connor Watson have been included in the squad but Brown won’t decide who will be Mitchell Pearce’s halves partner for their season opener until he sees how the team goes in their second pre-season hit-out against the Parramatta Eels later this month.
“It’s our first trial and everyone’s eager for a game and obviously a lot of the guys are keen to impress,” Brown said.
“You always feel at pre-season that you’re making some progress but there’s nothing like playing.
“For us it’s really important to try and build combinations and the guys have been working really hard at training.”
Brown was keen to see how Watson works alongside Pearce and he also plans to give Lamb and Jake Cogger some game time to stake their claims for roles within the squad.
“As much as I am looking forward to seeing Mitchell and Connor play, I am also forward to seeing Jake Cogger and Brock Lamb play as well,” Brown said.
“They’ve both played NRL well before their time. I feel now they’re ready to play first grade.
“I am more confident that they can play NRL really well.”
While the first hit out of the year is mainly to dust of the cobwebs and improve fitness, Brown says he will allow a fair amount of game time for all of his players.
“I think we’ll play the experienced guys 30 or 40 minutes, he said.
“We will have a reasonable experienced side in the first half. And then both sides will probably allow for a lot of younger blokes in the second half.
“It will certainly give both sets of players a good look at where they are all at.”
Melbourne will use the match to prepare for the World Club Challenge against Leeds next Friday at the same venue.
The match will have an unusual feel, without a crowd but Brown said he cannot wait to play against the premiers in a fan-free environment.
“You know they’re going to be match hardened,” he said.
“That’s just the way the Storm is run. They don’t leave to many stones unturned.”