Coach Rick Stone has acknowledged that there is as many as seven spots up for grabs before Round One, placing emphasis on performance in the Newcastle Knights’ trial matches as players vie for a spot in the starting team.
Players will no doubt be using the next two trial matches on Saturday in Wauchope and the following weekend in Canberra to attract attention and prove themselves to Stone.
“I think there are a few spots up for grabs for sure,” Stone said.
“We’ve got probably the bench and a couple of back row and front row positions there.
“There’s definitely plenty of positions up for grabs, five to seven positions I reckon.
“The form in the next couple of weeks will have a massive part to play in selection in Round One."
Stone’s open mind provides additional opportunity for the Knights’ emerging players to earn themselves a spot in the starting 17.
“Our NSW Cup and NYC sides from last year have plenty of players in the fulltime squad that are in the side going to Wauchope,” Stone said.
“It gives all those boys a chance to show what they can do and a chance to impress.
“The next step for them would be to get into the team in Canberra the following week. Then that would give themselves a chance for first grade selection after that"
One player who is pushing for a consistent place in the back row is 20-year-old junior Kangaroo Jake Mamo.
“He’s an excitement machine, Jake, and he’s one player we want to keep at the place,” Stone said.
“He’ll probably attract a bit of interest.
“I’m sure the fans up at Wauchope will enjoy seeing Jake Mamo if he gets in the clear, because he can sure get along and score some tries."
Another player striving to make further NRL appearances, after making his debut in Round 25 last season, is hooker Tyler Randell.
“He’s definitely a chance of playing that (hooker) role. We still have Chad Redman and Danny Levi who can play a couple of roles.
“I suppose it’s Tyler’s versatility, I thought he was pretty good in the Nines and played a couple of spots at hooker and also in the halves.
“It’s good to have a 14 that can play hooker and can also play other spots.
“It’s a real luxury and I think that Tyler did that for me in NSW Cup playing a number of positions and also in the Nines.
“With Carlos Tuimavave obviously out (injury), Tyler is going to play a bit in the halves on the weekend."
Stone also reiterated that taking NRL quality football to the country is a priority for the Knights.
“We’ve made a promise to the community and will be getting up there and taking our footy club out to the Hunter Valley and the wider region,” he said.
"We really want to thank the Port Sharks in getting this one moving and Wauchope have been successful in their own right.
“It’s a good footy town and the people up there will hopefully come out and support it."