The new season is just around the corner and this weekend’s trial match against the Canberra Raiders is a final chance for the players to fine tune their games before premiership points are up for grabs.
The Knights return to Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan with several new recruits and plenty of young players keen to show how much they have improved over the pre-season.
CANBERRA RAIDERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Saturday February 18
Gates open: 2.55pm
Venue: Seiffert Oval
Broadcast: Live stream on Club website
1. Dylan Phythian, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Luke Yates, 15. Jack Stockwell, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 18. Brendan Elliot, 19. Will Pearsall, 22. Josh King, 23. Jacob Saifiti, 24. Chanel Mata’utia.
Eddie Aiono, Blake Austin, Luke Bateman, Shannon Boyd, Adam Clydsdale, Nick Cotric, Lachlan Croker, Thomas Cronan, Shaun Fensom, Josh Hodgson, Edrick Lee, Joey Leilua, Jeff Lima, Dunamis Lui, Makahesi Makatoa, Mark McCormack, Anthony Moraitis, Brent Naden, Josh Papalii, Junior Paulo, Clay Priest, Jordan Rapana, Zac Santo, Aidan Sezer, Sia Soliola, Scott Sorensen, Joseph Tapine, Topi Taufa, Dave Taylor, Jordan Turner, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton.
The Knights have named a back five with two new faces in Dylan Phythian and Ken Sio.
While Phythian only played hooker in first grade last season, Sio is a new signing from the English Super League that should be able to make a big contribution out on the wing.
There’s plenty of pace across the backs as well, with Dane Gagai and Nathan Ross strong in one-on-one situations.
That being said, the Raiders boast one of the most attacking set of backs in the competition.
While Jarrod Croker has been ruled out through injury, the likes of Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana and Jack Wighton will be on deck for this trial match.
A new-look forward pack
The Club’s starting forward pack looks very different to the one that finished last year.
New recruits Jamie Buhrer and Josh Starling start in the second row and at prop respectively, while Mitch Barnett makes the move to lock.
Daniel Saifiti and Sione Mata’utia retain their positions and will be looking to build on some impressive performances from last year.
Again, the Raiders have an abundance of riches with their big men, and the Knights will have to be on their game.
Representative players such as Shannon Boyd and Josh Papalii will take some stopping, but Knights coach Nathan Brown welcomes the contest.
“It’s going to be a great test in Canberra this weekend, and I’m sure in the first 40 minutes their better players will come out hard,” he said earlier in the week.
“Everyone’s going to get a test, and it’s going to be a physical test.”
The young faces
19-year-old Sam Stone headlines the young guns that Brown is bringing along for the trial match, while Luke Yates is another player that is yet to make his first grade debut.
Stone has put on plenty of size this pre-season after impressing for the NYC Knights in 2016, and also had a strong Auckland Nines tournament two weeks ago.
While it remains to be seen how many minutes he will get in Queanbeyan, it will be interesting to see how he handles the challenge of playing against some big bodies.
Brock Lamb is another young player that will be eager for a big game, as he hopes to claim the five-eighth position for himself ahead of Round 1.
After missing the second half of last season through injury, this will be his first 13-a-side outing since May last year.
THE FINAL SAY
“We’re expecting all of our 22 players to get some time, but all of our players should be able to do 80 minutes if we need them to,” Physical Performance Manager Tony Ayoub told Knights TV on Thursday.
“The coaches have some ideas about how many minutes they want different individuals to play.”