The nib Newcastle Knights’ Round 1 clash against the Manly Sea Eagles on Friday will be the first game back for forward Mitch Barnett after shoulder surgery in the off-season.
The 23-year-old, who had a standout 2017 year, said it’s humbling to know coach Nathan Brown had the confidence to award him a spot in the starting 13, despite not taking part in the trials.
“It’s a massive confidence booster for me and I was still really shocked when he gave me the green light,” Barnett explained.
“I’ve just got to repay him and the boys, do my job out there and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Knights forward admitted there’s been a few nerves surfacing as the season opener drew closer.
“Nerves were starting to kick in a bit but I think it’s more excitement than anything,” smiled Barnett.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played a bit of footy and I can’t wait to get out there and rip in.
“Some of the other players have got a few more minutes under their belt, but that just means I’ve got to work a lot harder.
“They’re only one or two games in front of me so hopefully it doesn’t take me too long to get back into it.”
Barnett maintains his goal in 2018 is to build on a strong season last year.
“Continuing to learn and pick up on little things that were letting me down last year,” he said.
“I just need to continue learning along the way in defence and attack, or even if it is just little one percenters.
“If I can just keep working at that, hopefully my game continues to grow.”
While there’s been a lot of hype surrounding his opposed number 13, Jake Trbojevic, Barnett mentioned that Manly have strong competitors everywhere on the field.
“It’s a one to 13 thing, they’ve got a lot of great players,” Barnett claimed.
“His brother Tom, big Marty Taupau and they’ve got (Daley) Cherry Evans who are all great players, so there’s a lot more than one bloke and we need to look out for them all.
“We have done a lot of video, there is no excuses going out there this week and hopefully we can control them and put in a good performance.”
This year with a host of new recruits at the Club, the young forward knows there’s a lot more expectation to perform well.
“It actually gives me a bit of excitement,” Barnett commented.
“We’ve got to go out there and focus on our job and what we can do for the team.
“We’ve got to put aside the nerves and if we just go out there and worry about our job, we should go a long way to some good results.
“We need to repay the fans with some good performance and deliver what we have set out to do.”
While the fierce rivalry against Manly has been a definite talking point leading into the game.
“It has been brought up one or two times with the Old Boys, and chatting to them,” said Barnett.
“It’s a great rivalry between two clubs and I’ve sure being at home here, it doesn’t get any better and hopefully we can go out there and turn it on for our fans and our Club.”