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2017 Auckland 9s.

While the 2017 Auckland Nines tournament was disappointing for the nib Newcastle Knights in the sense that they didn’t make it out of the pool stage, coach Nathan Brown said he was satisfied with the improvements shown by the team’s younger members.

“Like most sides, we would have liked to get out of our group,” he said at the team’s hotel on Sunday night.

“Unfortunately we only won the one game, but from a positive point of view I think all the younger guys that debuted last year now look far more physically capable.”

Jacob and Daniel Saifiti and Brock Lamb more than held their own, while Sam Stone was a highlight from the batch of Nines debutants in the squad.

Danny Levi was also impressive, despite having still only played 25 NRL games.  

“Their fitness levels and their ability to handle the physical part of the game I think will be greatly improved this year,” Brown said.

“At stages they all showed they’ve improved and I think their ability to defend is a lot better as well.”

The team returns to Newcastle on Monday afternoon and has the upcoming weekend off, but next weekend the Club will have it’s final hit-out of the pre-season against the Canberra Raiders in Queanbeyan.

Brown said he was looking forward to the trial as a reliable yardstick for the season ahead.

“First grade play the Raiders, reserve grade play the Mounties and I think the Under 20s are playing as well,” he explained.

“That will be a really good hit-out from the point of view that Canberra are being touted by many as a premiership threat.

“So I think that will give an indication of where everybody is at.”