Ahead of Saturday’s Round 1 match, Chris Houston believes the number one goal for the Newcastle Knights is to play well individually and win as a team.
Houston says the team will feed off the energy from an exceedingly positive pre-season characterised by very few injuries in the playing squad.
“We are pretty much full strength,” Houston told the media on Friday.
“It wasn’t the case at the start of last year, so it’s good to have everyone on board.
“Most guys have had a great pre-season and that always generates competition for spots."
Houston joins Tyler Randell, David Fa’alogo, Jack Stockwell and Sione Mata’utia on an extended bench and expects to relieve the team’s forwards as fatigue sets in.
“Both our back-rowers can play long minutes, but being Round 1, no doubt they will need a rest at some stage, so I’m looking forward to filling in there,” he added.
“Hopefully we play well and have a win. That’s all you can do, put in a good performance and let (Rick) Stoney worry about the selection."
The veteran forward says the team has been progressively building towards the season proper since trial matches at the Auckland Nines, Wauchope and Canberra.
“It was good to get a little taste in the trials, even after watching a bit of footy last night, the boys are keen to go,” he said.
Houston says the Knights have assessed the opposition during the week.
“The Warriors are hard to beat, but hopefully we can put up a good fight on Saturday,” he said.
“They have big guys and off the back of it they have (Sam) Tomkins and (Shaun) Johnson, so we need to shut them down early so they don’t get that roll on.
“They get their go forward off their big guys and Johnson is great when he has the footy.
“They do a lot of plays out the back, like a bit of a block play, so we’ll have to be on our guard."
Apart from the desire to deliver a season opening win to a home crowd at Hunter Stadium, a major motivating factor will be the fact the 1988 Knights team will be watching on.
“Typically in the last home game of the year, (on Old Boys Day) when you run out of the sheds and all the guys are there, it really does spark you a bit,” he said.
“It will definitely inspire us I think.
“It will give us a little bit of a lift and will get you keen, but when you’re out there you’re playing your own game and we’ll fall into a bit of a groove that we’ve been training towards.
“The Knights of the old days had such a great connection with the community
“It’s important for us to have that and to get big crowds to our game so we are doing everything we can to get there.”