nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown has provided a pre-season update after two months of intense training on the field and in the gym.
Arrival of new recruits
“We have had players come in at different stages due to the World Cup,” Brown said.
“From last year we’ve had a huge change of personnel but fortunately we have been lucky enough to recruit a lot of players that are starting at staggered times.
“Each week it’s like a new player has joined the squad, so it’s refreshing and for some players it’s the first time they have changed clubs for a long time or in their life.
“For a lot of the new blokes, it’s been a huge change picking up and moving to another place but being in Newcastle makes it easy because they will certainly enjoy living here.”
Herman Ese’ese commenced training on Monday while Chris Heighington is the last of the new recruits to commence training, when he steps out on Wednesday.
“Young players like Sam Stone and Luke Yates had their first pre-season in 2016 and those blokes have showed good signs of improvement,” Brown commented.
“It’s not about any singular person that has done any better than others, there’s a lot of overall improvement.
“Everyone that has come in seems to fit in really well and you like to think that you’re recruiting good people.
“Certainly, over the past years we have lacked a lot of experience where the younger blokes were getting played before their time but now having a couple of years of football, it’s not only helped their development but has thickened our squad.”
A new side of depth and experience
“As far as our forward pack goes, we seem to have a fair bit of experience,” cited Brown.
“We've added some good experience with the likes of Jacob Lillyman who played 10 or 12 Origins and Chris Heighington, who has played 300 first grade games.
“At 29, Aidan Guerra is probably at the prime of his career and is at an age where an athlete should be challenging himself to be in his prime and at the other end of the scale we’ve got Herman Ese’ese, who is on 40 games and a player we think has got great potential to go to another level like the Saifiti boys.
“With Mitchell (Pearce) coming into the halves, he helps Connor Watson who has limited experience, similar to Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger.
“We brought Slade Griffin in from Melbourne as he’s a grand final winner who can challenge Danny (Levi), so we certainly seem to have some good cover with experience and good youth.”
Mitchell Pearce’s signing
“We have created a lot of hope in the community bringing Mitchell in,” Brown maintained.
“I have always said we needed a half of that age that is on the paddock all the time; he is a great trainer and is probably coming into the prime of his career for our younger halves to work with.
“For a younger half, it can push them back a little bit and their path to first grade is not as easy, but on the other hand, it certainly helps their development.
“Along with Mitch comes more expectation and more hope, not only amongst the community but amongst the playing group as well.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done and to help these blokes get where they need to be.”
Returning in the New Year
“We want players to go away, have a good break over Christmas and enjoy themselves with their family and friends but we need them to come back in good shape,” admitted Brown.
“You don’t want to see all their hard work come unstuck because of some ill-discipline.
“We have done a lot of positional and skill work with them and the strength and conditioners have priority, but after we get back we really need to step up our team work and have all players on deck.
“Mitch Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson along with Brock Lamb, Jack Cogger and Trent Hodkinson need to develop really good combinations.
“We’ll certainly step that team work up… they’ll still do their conditioning and strengthening work but the priority swings to more of the coaching side of things.”