The countdown is winding down for the return of the Telstra Premiership and with it comes the excitement of seeing fresh faces of the nib Newcastle Knights combine, particularly as part of the all-important ‘spine’.
New signing Jayden Brailey will venture out for his official club debut on Saturday 14 March, and it’s not just the fans who are looking forward to seeing him out with five-eighth Kurt Mann one of his big supporters.
Having trained alongside the former Cronulla Sharks hooker all pre-season and throughout the trials period, Mann has been most impressed and is confident of establishing a consistent partnership with him, as well as fullback Kalyn Ponga and halfback Mitchell Pearce.
“Jayden has been a massive signing for us,” Mann said.
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“He’s a real steady head. He plays like he’s a veteran. He’s young but he’s pretty calm and steady there.
“There’s been a real ‘ease-in’ factor for us as a spine.
“Something I’ve been looking forward to is trying to play some consistency footy. That’s going to be the main aim for me.”
Questions were raised at the end of last season surrounding who would fill the vacant No.6 spot in 2020, but having worked on a short list of attributes tasked to him by new coach Adam O’Brien, Mann looks to have the role secured going into Round One.
The recently turned 27-year-old isn’t resting on his laurels though as he’s aware there’s plenty of competition for the position.
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“There’s pressure coming from everyone,” he said.
“There’s a lot of boys who are capable of filling that role in our squad. Everyone’s seen the form of young Texy [Hoy], he’s been playing pretty well during the trial period. Connor [Watson] is equally as capable, as well as Mason [Lino] also.
“Adam spoke to me at the start of the pre-season and he said he wanted me to work on just three things. One was my kicking, my defence, and just make sure I’m hitting the money on my passes.
“If I’m given that opportunity [at five-eighth, it’s something I’d like to grab with both hands. It’s where I play my best footy.”
While the squad managed both a win and a loss from their outings in the trials, the former Storm and Dragons utility admitted the two matches shouldn’t be analysed too much, however, one thing is for certain, the team are fired up for Round One at home against the Warriors.
“Everyone’s got through the trial period pretty much unscathed,” he said.
“I was a bit hot and cold at times, that’s trials though I think. Everyone goes into trials with a bit of rust there.
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“There’s a few niggles getting around but I’m expecting to see our full-strength side lining up Round One.
“Everyone is excited…We’ve done a long, tough pre-season. We’re sick of running hills and bashing each other so everyone is looking forward to playing some footy.”