In the first of a daily series analysing who will line up in each position for all 16 teams in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership in 2019, NRL.com looks at the rebuilding Newcastle Knights.
Another drastic off-season roster overhaul will result in an unrecognisable Knights side but it's all positive news that has fans buzzing after the club made great strides in 2018.
Gone are a host of fringe first graders and a couple of retired veterans; in come Origin props David Klemmer and Tim Glasby, budding star centre Jesse Ramien and handy Dragons utility Kurt Mann, among others.
A new centre pairing of Jesse Ramien and Hymel Hunt will start at least until Tautau Moga is back from a knee injury, with the recruitment of yet another outside back in Edrick Lee likely to mean Nathan Ross misses out for round one if he remains at the club.
Klemmer will stroll into a starting spot and Connor Watson is likely to begin the season at fullback while Kalyn Ponga is given a shot in the halves. Kurt Mann and Danny Levi will vie for starting hooker and bench utility roles with Mason Lino also in the mix and Slade Griffin sidelined for some time yet. An embarrassment of riches in the forwards means Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Sione Mata'utia, Jamie Buhrer, James Gavet, Mitch Barnett, Sam Stone and Pasami Saulo are probably battling for just three front and back row spots between them.
Resident NRL.com expert Jamie Soward says:
"The contentious position is fullback; can Connor Watson make the transition there? He's a perfect 14, maybe the best utility player in the competition in that Craig Wing role.
"If the seven and six combine together like they did in that short time last season, Newcastle for me, if they don't make the top eight or even top four, it's a failed season.
"The other position they have to sort out is the hooking role – do they go with Zac Woolford, Danny Levi? They haven't really got a top No.9. I thought they may have gone after Cameron King or James Segeyaro. They need a guy that is consistent and comfortable to go in there and dish the ball up to Pearce and Ponga."
NRL.com's predicted Round 1 team:
- Connor Watson
- Shaun Kenny-Dowall
- Jesse Ramien
- Hymel Hunt
- Edrick Lee
- Kalyn Ponga
- Mitchell Pearce
- David Klemmer
- Danny Levi
- Tim Glasby
- Lachlan Fitzgibbon
- Sione Mata'utia
- Aidan Guerra
- Kurt Mann
- Daniel Saifiti
- Herman Ese'ese
- James Gavet
Other squad members… Mitch Barnett, Jamie Buhrer, Slade Griffin (injured), Brodie Jones, Josh King, Mason Lino, Tautau Moga (injured), Nathan Ross, Jacob Saifiti, Pasami Saulo, Sam Stone, Zac Woolford