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nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown spoke to the media three days out from the season opener against the Manly Sea Eagles at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Brown discussed a number of changes in the selected squad for Friday and some hard decisions that needed to be made.

“It was a tough call on leaving Danny (Levi) out of the side,” explained Brown.

“He was disappointed but he has handled it well... it’s not to do with form because in both the games we played Slade (Griffin) and Danny working together as a good combination, but with Sione (Mata’utia) back in the centres and Joe Wardle getting homesick, we can't have a lot of movement in our team.

“Connor (Watson) is our best moveable piece so with Lamby (Brock Lamb) getting a spot on the bench, it allows Connor to move.

“If Lamby has to move, Connor is obviously as good a half as he is hooker so it was just to do with the balance of the team.”

The Knights coach admits with the changing rules of the games, they had to account for that.

“Back in the day you didn’t really have to worry about it too much but with concussion rules today, players have got to come off the field,” said Brown.

“It’s not uncommon to be a weekly occurrence where we lose an outside back or a half because of the rules in the game today so if we can cover it, we had to cover it.

“Brock showed at the back end of last year that he’s ready to play some first grade football as well as Danny too, it’s just a tough call but he’s kept his composure.”

Unfortunately for big man Jacob Saifiti, the 21-year-old is set to miss out on an NRL spot in Round 1.

“Jacob (Saifiti) is probably a touch unlucky… he was pretty fair in the trial and that shows we’ve got more depth in the squad,” Brown said.

“Jacob is disappointed he has missed out, but he’s handled it quite well.

“He’s aware that Chris Heighington and Jacob Lillyman have been brought here not only to put pressure on them but to help understand what a good solid first grade game is.

“He’s fine, he’ll play plenty of footy this year, just not this week.”

While talented forward Mitch Barnett, who was kept out of the trial against the Parramatta Eels, will look to return from his shoulder injury and be a starter in Round 1.

“Mitch Barnett probably could have played against Parramatta but it was caution more than anything” Brown stated.

“If it had been a competition game, he would have definitely played, but being a trial we felt there was no need and he’s played enough games to know what is required and whatever he does, he’ll only improve.”

Brown admitted there’s plenty of excitement amongst the playing group and fans to kick off the 2018 season against Manly.

“People in town, the players, they’re all excited and obviously we’ve got more expectation on the team so it’s an exciting time,” commented the Knights coach.

“We’ve certainly got enough experienced players to handle it, our combinations will still take work, but under pressure how that comes up only time will tell.

“The guys are buying into where we want to go so at least we have the experience and the cool heads there.

“Player keenness and wanting to do well is great, but Manly will be doing pretty well as they have some pretty handy players there.”