Nib Newcastle Knights head coach Adam O’Brien and Canterbury Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett fronted the media ahead of Friday night’s season opener at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Here's what both coaches had to say ahead of the huge Round 1 encounter.
Adam O'Brien has named a strong side to take on the Bulldogs.
Tex Hoy will start at fullback while key players Connor Watson and Jayden Brailey have returned from injury and will line-up at lock and hooker respectively.
Injuries to Kalyn Ponga, Blake Green, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Edrick Lee has seen a reshuffle in the team, although O'Brien says the side is ready after a huge off-season.
“We’ve known for a long time who we were going to have in our team. The guys that are missing, we’ve known for ages and we’ve prepared really well," O'Brien said.
“It’s not like these absences have popped up yesterday on us, that won’t be an excuse for our performance."
Meanwhile for the Bulldogs, new coach Trent Barrett has named his first team for the Bulldogs.
It's a new-look side this year for the blue and white with a heavy recruitment drive in the off-season.
After a tough few years including finishing 15th last season, Barrett said the team has now come together ahead of the opening game.
“It’s a pretty new team, we’ve had a lot of work to do but I’m happy with where they are at," Barrett said.
“We have a really young spine, I’d be surprised if there was 50 games between the four of them, but we’ve got a lot of senior players in our forward pack.
"They’ve just got to play their role."
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Both clubs have made fresh signings to their squads for the highly-anticipated 2021 season.
For the Knights, international and state representative second-row forward Tyson Frizell will make his debut in the red and blue along with Sauaso Sue, who will come off the bench.
O'Brien praised Frizell's initial impact on the team and likened the 29-year-old to some Knights legends.
“Tyson Frizell has fitted in perfectly. Tyson is a symbol of Newcastle, he’s tough, resilient and hard-working," O'Brien said.
"Everything you want in a player, he's got and everything that has been in back rowers at this proud club.
“Ben Kennedy, Steve Simpson, (Adam) Muir, (Billy) Peden and Frizell now."
As for the Dogs, the club has recruited heavily in a bid to rise up the ladder.
Kyle Flanagan, Nick Cotric, Corey Allan and Jack Hetherington are the new names to the team.
Barrett said his squad needs time but is excited to watch the new players run out.
“He’s a handful Nick (Cotric), we all know what he can do. He brings a lot of confidence to the group and he has just got to do his job," Barrett said.
"(Kyle) is a young halfback, the thing that has impressed me the most is his toughness. This team doesn't revolve around one person, he's a piece of the puzzle.
"We've got a young spine and we need to share the workload."
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ROUND 1 PREVIEW
The Knights and Bulldogs will kick off their massive Round 1 clash at 6:00pm this Friday.
The two outfits will have to adapt to a host of new rule changes which is expected to increase the tempo of the game.
Coach O'Brien said the side is extremely excited to run out in front of the home fans but is ready for a challenge against the Bulldogs.
“We're (expecting) a tough contest, the teams are pretty similar," O'Brien said.
"Both spines haven’t spent a whole lot of time together but I know there are two, tough packs of forwards who are ready to roll their sleeves up.
“We're really excited to get back in front of the fans. I think it’s a sell out or close to. We played seven games here and got five results last year, so it just shows how important this place is to us.”
The Bulldogs have a great record when facing the Knights in Newcastle having won eight of the last nine fixtures between the two clubs.
The last time the two sides met, the Bulldogs came away 18-12 victors in Round 11 last season at McDonald Jones Stadium.
It will be a completely different game on Friday night and Barrett discussed how his side will need to adapt to the rule changes.
“The game it’s definitely a little bit quicker, ball in play time was a little bit more (in the trial). High-speed running and metres per minute and all the data our high-performance team gives us backs that up.
“It’s certainly brought the out and out footballer back into the game, there’s not as much time to get things organised."
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