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There’s one thing on coach Nathan Brown’s mind as the nib Newcastle Knights kick off their 2018 pre-season, and that’s improvement.

With the Club’s younger players all showing plenty of improvement over the last two seasons, the challenge now is to keep that development going.

On top of that, Brown says he will be looking for his new signings to add plenty of quality across the park.

“Our young players showed a lot of growth both physically and mentally from year one to year two, and we’ll be hopeful that in eight weeks’ time they’re making the same progress this time around,” the coach said after Wednesday morning’s fitness session.

“The staff’s expectations for this year are a lot higher, and we’d certainly hope that the players have much higher expectations as well.

“Players like (Lachlan) Fitzgibbon, (Mitch) Barnett and the (Jacob and Daniel) Saifitis all showed good improvement this year, and they’ve got to challenge themselves to improve a lot more next year.

“We’ve had 21 players leave the squad from this day last year, and I would think no other squad in the history of the NRL has had a turnover of that size.

“With what we’ve brought in, we’d like to think that the pressure on our existing players to make the team will be a lot harder.”

There’s more experience across the squad now, and several high profile signings in different positions means everyone will be fighting hard for a spot in Round 1.

“We’ve gone through a very different stage where we’ve lost a lot of players, and we’d like to think that the players we’ve signed will help us improve,” Brown explained.

“The squad is a little light at the moment with the World Cup and with a lot of our new players not being here yet, so I’d like to think that when we’re fully assembled there will be that extra pressure.”

Connor Watson, Kalyn Ponga, Tautau Moga, Slade Griffin and Aidan Guerra will link with the squad in the coming weeks, while World Cup participants such as Herman Ese’ese and Chris Heighington will arrive further down the track.