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You can’t beat familiar faces and experience.

That’s the message from Knights winger James McManus heading into Saturday’s season-opener against a new-look Penrith outfit.

The Panthers have added six players to their roster for 2014, including big names Jamie Soward, Jamal idris, Brent Kite and Peter Wallace.

It's a squad that looks strong on paper, but McManus says the Knights haven't even focused on their rivals and are more concerned about maintaining their own form and combinations. 

"I guess they (Penrith) have got a fair few new players, so it will be interesting to see how well they’ve gelled over the their pre-season," McManus says.

"Every team works hard over the pre-season, but it (the match) will show the preparation.

"They’ve got a few new combinations to work out, whereas I guess we are sort of flowing on from last year.

"Hopefully that will be good for us and will lead to a victory.

"But there is no point worrying about them (the Panthers), because we can’t control what they do.

"So we’ll just worry about making sure we get our jobs done.

"We all know what our jobs are and what we are capable of and we’ve just got to make sure we execute that on the field week-in and week-out.

"It all starts this week and we’ve got to set those standards."

McManus is first to admit the Club will miss the presence of injured five-eighth Jarrod Mullen, but he remains confident new recruit Michael Dobson is ready to step up.

"Dobbo has come in and he has been great," he says.

"He is looking forward to his opportunity back in the NRL and it will be great to see him play again.

"Things like this happen in a year and you’ve just got to overcome them and just get on with it.

"It will be great to have Jarrod back when he returns, but for the meantime we’ve still got to win football games and we’ll just move on."

As McManus pointed out, Newcastle has plenty of big-name experience in their ranks. 

One of these players is skipper Kurt Gidley, a bloke who returns to the field after off-season foot surgery. 

McManus says Gidley is an invaluable asset for the Knights given his workload and level of skill. 

"I’m really looking forward to playing with Kurt again," he says.

"He out enthuses everyone he plays with and against and he is just a competitor.

"He is our Club captain and I'm really looking forward to seeing him out there and steering us around."

This weekend's opening round against the Panthers is also McManus first NRL match since he injured his ankle in the semi-final against the Bulldogs.

The flying Scotsman missed the Club's two finals matches against the Storm and Roosters, but after pre-season ankle surgery he says he is ready to play.  

"I made sure I ticked all the boxes before Christmas, but since then it's increased and I'm looking forward to putting on the boots again," he says.

"I missed the last two games last year when things were really happening for the boys and I can't wait to hopefully get back there.

"But we've got to play well from the start of the season to get there."  

As McManus knows, you have to be consistent throughout a season and that's where the experience comes in.