RUGBY league legend Brad Fittler predicted on Monday Newcastle and Sydney Roosters would be the big improvers of the 2013 NRL season.
The Knights and Roosters finished 12th and 13th respectively last season, but Fittler was confident the two clubs had bolstered their ranks strategically.
Newcastle have added authority to their pack with Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott and David Fa’alogo, and the addition of Anthony Quinn and BJ Leilua has increased their backline depth.
The Roosters have spared no expense in signing superstar Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings, James Maloney and Luke O’Donnell.
Both sides have shown promising signs in the trial matches and Fittler expects that to continue when the season proper kicks off.
‘‘I think along with the Roosters, the Knights have been the most active in the recruiting market,’’ Fittler said.
‘‘I think they’ve got some real quality in Smith and Beau Scott. BJ Leilua is a great acquisition, and Quinn from Melbourne.
‘‘They’re really good buys. [Knights coach] Wayne [Bennett] obviously chased them pretty hard, but he knows the sort of players he needs to carry out his game plan.’’
Fittler said he was not surprised by the renaissance of former Test forward Willie Mason since joining the Knights midway through last season.
Fittler coached Mason at the Roosters in 2008 and 2009 before the veteran headed to North Queensland and French rugby union, leaving many to assume his NRL career was over.
Instead he played so well last season that Bennett re-signed him to a two-year deal.
‘‘I’ve known Willie for a while now and I don’t think anything he does surprises me,’’ Fittler said. ‘‘When he’s focused he can do extremely good things.’’
Fittler and fellow ex-players Nathan Hindmarsh, Eric Grothe senior and junior, Ian Schubert and Glenn Grief will be at Kurri Sportsground on Saturday for the Charity Shield pre-season clash between the home side and Cessnock.
The local derby is a stop on Fittler’s Blues Hogs for Homeless charity fund-raising Harley-Davidson ride from Kiama to the Gold Coast, starting tomorrow.
The former NSW and Kangaroos skipper was hopeful it would become an annual event. Donations can be made via the NSW Rugby League website.
‘‘I’ve done a bit of work with youth off the streets before and they’re the people that most need it,’’ Fittler said. ‘‘When you live in Sydney, it’s very real.’’