With just 8 sleeps until Round 1, the Newcastle Knights are well and truly on the countdown to game day.
Assistant coach Danny Buderus says the team has already started preparation for the challenge of facing the New Zealand Warriors in the opening game at Hunter Stadium.
“It’s exciting, we are just sharpening the pencil a little bit with all our plays,” Buderus told Knights TV on Thursday.
“We’ve trained hard and I know every club has done the same thing.”
For the Knights’ Hall of Fame inductee, preparation involves much more than groundwork on the training field.
“It’s about how they apply themselves and the attitude they bring, not only to training but to the first game,” he says.
“The Warriors' trial form has been great and they play a really good brand of footy.
“They are big and it will be a really good test to see all the hard work everyone’s put in during the pre-season.
“It’s obviously going to be strong and aggressive.
“The way they finish their sets with Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins, it’s going to be a great game to watch for all our fans.
According to Buderus, the Knights have made plenty of progress during the four-month pre-season and have honed a number of game areas.
“I think there’s been progress in our general push around the ball and supporting each other and understanding players can pass as well as to get up there and be around the footy,” he said.
“I’m really impressed with the way Jarrod Mullen and Tyrone Roberts in our halves are combining again.
“Adam Clydesdale is pretty comfortable there as well now and then there’s obviously Kurt (Gidley).
“Every successful footy team has a good spine and ours is doing pretty well.”
The assistant coach believes there’s no better way to kick off the season than with three grades playing in front of a home crowd at Hunter Stadium against a highly entertaining opposition.
“Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd turn out and it will be pretty loud,” he said.
For Clydsdale, Round 1 is the light at the end of the tunnel after the completion of months of training building towards the 2015 season.
“I’m pretty excited, preseason is always tough and it’s always good to get back into footy,” he said.
“I’ve worked pretty hard on my defense and fitness this pre-season so I’m looking forward to see how I go Round 1.
“We know it’s going to be tough with their big boys, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Clydsdale’s enthusiasm for the first official clash is echoed by five eighth, Jarrod Mullen.
“I’m really excited to start playing some footy, Mullen said.
“I’ve had a really good pre-season and have been training really hard and doing all the extra things really well, so I’m looking forward to the year.”
For the men in red and blue, the main objective is to launch into the match against the Warriors with full intensity.
“We want to start well, they are a team that wants to blow you off the park, so our big guys will have to stand up in the middle,” he said.
“It’ll be unreal to kick off the season in front of a home crowd.
“We haven’t done it in a while, the last couple of years we’ve played away.
“It will be good to get Hunter Stadium in front of a big crowd and will go a long way towards us winning the game.”
Meanwhile, forward Pat Vaivai says he feels as ready as ever to take the field.
“I’m feeling good and in the best shape that I’ve probably been,” Vaivai said.
The 23-year-old recipient of last year’s NSW Cup Player of the Year said he’s made progress since cutting down his weight in the off season.
“I’m the lightest I’ve been in a couple of years now and my fitness is better, so hopefully that will help me start the season off well and to be consistent,” he said.
Running out into a packed Hunter Stadium will be a highlight for Vaivai.
“It’s always good in Newcastle, It’s a good league city and people always look forward to coming to watch the boys.
“It’s all three grades, so hopefully we can put on a good show for them."
Tyler Randell’s pre-season has been one of his most solid one to date.
He’s avoided injury and played in all three of the Knights’ trials.
“I’m feeling really good, I’ve had an injury free pre-season and have done every session,” Randell said.
“My biggest achievement has been doing the whole pre-season, because they are always tough and you can get a few little niggling injuries."
The versatile half can’t wait to gear up for the blockbuster hit out against the Warriors.
“We have been doing a little bit of structure around the Warriors already,” he said.
“In the early stages of the game you just want to complete your sets, no errors and basic footy and hopefully that will see us come away with the win.
“Being the first grade at home, hopefully everyone gets out there to watch.”
The count down is on for the start of the 2015 season! The best way to support the Knights is to be UKNIGHTED as a Member. Get decked out in red and blue and be at the game when the Knights face the New Zealand Warriors for Round 1 on March 7.