As the Newcastle Knights edge closer to competing in the Auckland Nines tournament on the weekend, Nathan Brown says he plans to take a step back and rely on the expertise and experience of assistant coaches Danny Buderus and Mick Potter to prepare the team for the high-energy matches.
Relatively new to the NRL Nines concept after his most recent coaching stint in English Super League, Brown says his focus will fall on observing the way his players handle themselves and work together during the modified games which will inevitably push them out of their comfort zone.
"Mick Potter and Bedsy (Buderus) are more in charge of what they will do in attack and defence and I’m a bit of a spectator,” he said.
"They both have plenty of experience at it and I’m sure they’ll put the team in the right direction.
"The nines is such a totally different game, but once you pick your 18 players, you want them to compete and want them to try to win. The competitiveness should come out in all the Clubs.
“The biggest interest for me is how our younger players perform against players from other clubs who have a lot of experience.
“That’s a key for myself and from what I’ve been told it’s going to be very entertaining.”
Brown also reflected on recent developments within the team which he believes bode well for the quickly approaching season.
Most notably, the Club welcomed forward Pauli Pauli on Saturday, who according to the coach, is an important asset to the continued growth of the side up front.
“He’s obviously a big lad so adds some size to our pack which is great,” he said about Pauli, who is likely to play in the Auckland Nines.
“Pauli seemed to be a player that definitely fits into what we’re looking for.
“Whilst he’s not a really experienced player, playing 30-40 first grade games, for our squad, he brings a bit of experience in some ways.
“The important thing is he’s a really good guy and improves our squad a lot and will improve our squad over a period of time because he’s only 21.
“We’ve brought a guy in who we believe, if he puts the time and effort into his game, can grow with the team over a number of years."
While Pauli has experienced ups and downs in his relatively short career, Brown believes with three NRL pre-seasons now under his belt, he is well and truly hitting his prime.
“A change of environment…and getting a lit bit more of an opportunity will work well for Pauli,” he added.
Another positive for the coach has been the news halfback Trent Hodkinson has been given the all clear for full training after managing a wrist injury throughout the pre-season.
Hodkinson underwent his first full contact training session on Saturday after having surgery at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
“It’s good news. He’s been filling in with team and doing bits of training but staying away from the contact,” he explained.
“It’s pleasing for the team. It was a bad injury, so it’s definitely (goo) to know he’s 100 per cent recovered and the surgery was 100 percent successful, because they can go both ways with wrist injuries.
“Now he knows the wrist is in the state it is, he can start working hard and rehabiting it more and hopefully he’ll be okay to play that last trial match.”
Meanwhile, the week also saw the announcement of the Auckland Nines squad which features plenty of fresh faces in the mix.
One in particular is 20-year-old Will Pearsall who joined the Knights at the beginning of the pre-season and will play his first game in the red and blue for the tournament held on February 6 and 7 at Eden Park.
“He’s a Central Coast boy and has been at Manly (Sea Eagles) the last few years,” he said.
“He was instrumental in the Holden Cup which charged towards the grand final.
“He’s got a really good kicking game and has trained really well with us in his first shot at fulltime training.”
The Auckland Nines tournament will be the perfect setting for young talent within the squad to impress their coach ahead of the season’s start.