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Barnett won't be backward in coming forward for leadership role

Knights forward Mitchell Barnett believes he can "step up" if the captaincy came his way after being one of five candidates named by Adam O'Brien to lead the club in a rotation system in 2021.

Jayden Brailey and Daniel Saifiti will share the duties in round one against Canterbury on Friday with O’Brien set to give Barnett, Kalyn Ponga and Blake Green stints in the leadership roles.

Ponga and Green will miss the start of the season due to injuries so Barnett is likely to be given a gig in round two.

Barnett’s conduct was questioned late last season when the 26-year-old was investigated by the NRL integrity unit after an incident involving allegations of on-field abuse towards Gold Coast utility Tyrone Peachey.

While Barnett said he would step up when it was his turn to lead the team on the field, he added he thought Green would become the team's general, irrespective of when it’s his turn in the rotation, when the veteran five-eighth returns from a knee injury in the early rounds of the season.

After Mitchell Pearce relinquished the sole captaincy duties in January, Barnett’s tipping the long-term captaincy to come down to two in the future.

Match Highlights: Storm v Knights

"I'd support anyone of them, whoever is picked, but I like what Daniel Saifiti is doing around his maturity and Jayden Brailey is the future captain of the club, for sure," he said.

Meanwhile, the Wingham junior added Connor Watson's mooted switch to the starting lock role was "interesting" but backed the livewire utility to nail it down.

Watson's move will see Barnett start on the left edge with Tyson Frizell in line to make his club debut on the right side in the season opener.

"He played a bit in that role last year but didn't get many games with all the injuries we had," Barnett said of Watson.

"But he was a livewire and hard to handle so it will be interesting. With the new rule changes if he can stay healthy he's in for a good year."

Barnett floated between lock and second row following a return from neck surgery he underwent during the forced COVID-19 pandemic break last year.

After fearing for his career at one stage, he's now looking to push on and remain a key player in the Knights pack.

"When I had my neck injury I had a lot of time to reflect closely with Adam and he's been instrumental for me and has given me a sense of belonging," he said.

"I've worked hard on my discipline and being a bit more consistent off the field will hopefully transfer onto it. I'm happy but not satisfied with how I'm going."

Barnett missed last week's trial loss to Melbourne on compassionate grounds but will be available for selection when the round one team is announced on Tuesday.

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