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Competition rises as Randall puts hand up

With a tick over a week until they re-commence their season, the nib Newcastle Knights are beginning to take shape ahead of take two of their assault on the NRL Telstra Premiership.

The Knights will field a new-look 17 against Penrith next Sunday, with Kalyn Ponga, Mitch Barnett and Jayden Brailey all unavailable for selection.

The side will further be altered thanks to the return of Bradman Best and Sione Mata'utia from injury, as well as the addition of Andrew McCollough from Brisbane.

With the uncertainty comes opportunity, with a number of players zeroing in on potential spots, creating the perfect headache for Adam O'Brien.

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"I haven't named the full squad yet," O'Brien said.

"I'm not completely settled on every spot."

One position of particular concern is hooker, with regular No.9 Jayden Brailey out for the season with a knee injury.

While Andrew McCollough has been brought in as cover, the former Queensland rake will have just a handful of training sessions to get to know his new team mates.

That leaves the door ajar for rookie hooker Chris Randall, who is gunning for an NRL debut in the No.9 jersey.

"It's a really good example for our young guys, if you work hard, you'll get rewarded," O'Brien said on Randall.

"When I came here in November he was just on the first six weeks trial.

"He's one of our fittest guys, he works hard defensively and found his way into a development contract.

"Now he gets an opportunity to potentially make his debut next week."

Should Randall make his debut in round three, it would be a remarkable rise for a player who looked was only on a train and trial deal at the start of pre-season, before forcing his way into the development squad.

Even O'Brien himself admits he was taken aback by the Lakes United junior when he arrived at the Club in November.

"I was really unfamiliar with Chris before I came here," he said.

"He can only control how he trained in pre-season and how he played in the pre-season.

"He's made his own luck Chris.

"If you train hard consistently then things will come your way."

While he has a big decision to make surrounding the hooking role, O'Brien admits his biggest headache is actually the make up of his backline.

"I've got four centres there that are like four pit bulls at the moment, their all going after it," O'Brien said.

"I'm really happy with the two centres that started the year, but I can't not think about Bradman (Best) and what he's done since he came back, and Tau's (Moga) been the same.

"They're all going really well, and that's what you want.

"It's probably one I lay awake thinking about."

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With just a handful of training sessions left between now and when the team is named, O'Brien reassured whatever way he leans, the best 17 players will take the field next weekend.

"Whatever's right for us, whatever's right for the team, that's what I'll do," O'Brien said.

"The guys that miss out, they know we're going to need all of them.

"This is going to take a whole Club, a whole squad.

"The better the guys that aren't playing are training, the better the boys that are playing are going to perform."