As the Newcastle Knights NYC team prepares for its first trial of the season this weekend against the Roosters in Wyong, coach Mick Crawley tips the game as a vital opportunity for his players to impress and earn a starting position for 2014.
“It’s our first hit out so it’s just a chance for the boys to show us how the off-season has been for them,” Crawley said.
“For a lot of the boys it’s the first time we see them in action.
Crawley said the team has performed very well in pre-season training and are ready to take the field.
The progression into NYC often marks a time of significant lifestyle change for the young players, who have to juggle football commitments with work.
“For a lot of boys it’s their first chance training at this sort of intensity.
“They’ve left school and they’re working, probably for the first time as well, so there’s a fair bit of hard work involved for them and it’s something they’re not used to,” Crawley explained.
Sione Mata’utia is one NYC player who has shown already outstanding potential to the Club.
He stepped up to play his first NRL level game with the Knights in the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League match against the First Nations Goannas, showing off his ability by crossing the line in the season’s first trial.
“He’s been impressive right throughout the pre-season. It’s what the Club expected from him," Crawley said.
“The reason we’ve got him training up with the first grade at the moment is because we expect good things from Sione.
“When you realise he’s still eligible for SG Ball not NYC, you know he’s going really well.
“Probably the most pleasing part was physically he handled it really well. He wasn’t overawed by the situation so all is well for the future.
“Sione is a really professional young man and I don’t expect his preparation to be any different for this trial.
“He prepares well footy and that’s what we’ll try and encourage him to do each week."
Jaelen Feeny, a halfback who joins the Club from the Bulldogs, is another squad member who has shown dedication and commitment during pre-season training.
“We chose Jaelen because we felt we needed a half back and he will play a good role in the No.7 jersey,” Crawley said.
“He was in the QLD 20s squad with Kevie Walters, so he’s progressing along nicely.
“He played with the Bulldogs last season and had a strong season there. He’s fit in really well with the players and has taken on a bit of a leadership role with the boys so it’s been quite good."
Crawley won't be putting too much pressure on his charges in their opening match for the year, but knows the Roosters will be tough opposition.
“They were big strong boys last year, they seem to have plenty of depth," he says.
“They’ll be like us, it will be one of their early hit outs.”
NYC 4.45pm kick-off
NSW Cup 6.30pm