Ex-Sharks Ramien and Lee ready for test against old teammates

Knights newcomers Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee will know as much about their opponents as their teammates when they tackle the Sharks in Newcastle's pre-season trial at Maitland on Saturday.

It will be a similar story in the Knights' season-opener at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 15 when the former Cronulla outside backs make their first NRL appearances for their new club.

"There's always a bit of banter with your old teammates. That's what footy's all about, so it will be good to get amongst it," Lee told NRL.com.

"I'm a bit fortunate to have the old team up in our second trial, then again in round one, so it will be a good test to see where we're at.

"Obviously we have new combinations all over the park, and there's nothing better than to come up against a good quality side like the Sharks, so we know what to expect against them and we'll see how we turn up this Saturday."

The 25-year-old Brisbane-born winger signed a three-year deal with the Knights last June, having spent two seasons at Cronulla and the previous five with Canberra.

He and Ramien are among the high-calibre recruits coach Nathan Brown has lured to Newcastle as the Knights try to build a team capable of challenging for a title after five years of mostly misery.

"I was coming off contract at the Sharks and had to weigh up my options on and off the field," Lee explained.

"I looked at the roster and also at the lifestyle I wanted to lead away from football, and Newcastle was the perfect fit because they ticked both those boxes. So I took the opportunity to move myself and my family up here to Newcastle.

"It still has that feel of a big country town, with beaches, but also the community have been really welcoming and they get behind their team, so it was a win-win with both situations. Now it's a matter of performing on the field."

Ramien, who like Lee was coming off contract at Cronulla at the end of last season, agreed to a two-year deal with the Knights last February.

Having settled his immediate future, he went on to enjoy a break-out year with the Sharks, helping him earn selection for the Prime Minister's XIII, inclusion in the NSW Emerging Blues camp last month and an Indigenous All Stars jersey earlier this month.

Having spent three years in Manly's junior reps before joining Cronulla, Ramien was already familiar with Newcastle before joining the Knights. He relocated from Coonamble as an 11-year-old, spent a few years at Kirinari Hostel in Garden Suburb, and attended Hunter Sports High School.

"It's just the way things worked out. I was willing to go wherever I needed to go to get a crack at NRL," Ramien said.

"Obviously Manly didn't work out, and they had a pretty good side there, so I tried my luck at Cronulla and I got my first-grade debut there.

Knights centre Jesse Ramien.
Knights centre Jesse Ramien. ©newcastleknights.com.au

"I'm very grateful for 'Flanno' (former coach Shane Flanagan) to give me a chance there, but I ended up moving on from there and coming to Newcastle Knights. I could see what 'Browny' was building here and I wanted to be a part of that.

"My little girl (LaSharn) is up here on the Central Coast as well, so to play at a professional level and be close to her and to see her grow up, I'm pretty lucky."

Unlike last year, when Lee was Ramien's right-hand man at the end of the Cronulla back-line and they scored 22 tries between them, they will have new partners at Newcastle.

Ramien will have Shaun Kenny-Dowall outside him on the right edge and Lee has been switched to the left. Lee has been ear-marked to play outside Sione Mata'utia on Saturday because Tautau Moga is still recovering from knee surgery and Hymel Hunt is being treated for a minor hamstring injury.

"Obviously playing against the old club is always good, and there's going to be a bit more feeling in it, especially knowing a lot of the boys," Ramien said.

"But this week, I'm just trying to get myself ready for the start of the season and not think too much about playing the old club.

"I'm keen to show the boys here what I can do.

"I was a bit limited with my opportunities against the Dragons last week – I didn't really get too much ball – but that comes with being in a new side and building combinations. I'm sure that as we play more games together, we'll build those combinations.

"We've got a team full of attacking players so we're going to play eyes-up footy, whatever we see, so if that means one side of the field doesn't see as much ball as the other, I suppose that's what's best for the team on that day."

No matter who plays centre inside him, Lee plans to take advantage of the opportunities created by new five-eighth Kalyn Ponga and back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon.

"I'm not sure where Hymel's at – he's had a little bit of a hammy tweak so it might be Sione there this week – but either way, it's a great opportunity for a new combination to gel and I'm looking forward to playing on that left edge outside 'Fitzy' and 'KP'," Lee said.

"I've been pretty versatile throughout my career, and I've been working on my combinations on that left edge, but if I'm ever needed on the right, I'll jump over there and put my hand up. My mentality is to be a team player first, so wherever I'm needed, I'll put my hand up to do the job.

"The recruitment and coaching staff have done really well putting this squad together, and we've worked hard in the pre-season getting our bodies ready for the season ahead.

"There's a high expectation on us and we're pretty excited about this second trial against the Sharks this weekend to see where our combinations are at, and where the team's at."