FULLBACK Nathan Ross is eight kilograms heavier, but has vowed to show Knights fans he has lost none of his trademark speed at the Auckland Nines.
Knights coach Rick Stone will name the man they call "White Lightning" on Tuesday in his squad for the pre-season tournament at Eden Park on January 31.
While some footballers judge the Nines as a mere pre-season practice run, Ross is taking it deadly serious.
It is the first-grade debut the former Kurri Kurri recruit has long craved after a successful NSW Cup campaign last year.
"It's a pretty good opportunity to put myself in the shop window to show Stoney what I can deliver and a few of the other boys in the squad," Ross said.
"I'm hoping to use my pace and get a few defenders one on one and back my strength and obviously offer some support to the rest of my team by finishing off with a few tries."
During the off-season Ross has built up his frame from 84kg to 93.5kg in a bid to realise his NRL dream.
In the Newcastle Rugby League and in NSW Cup, Ross' pace and try-scoring ability were his greatest assets.
The 26-year-old said that pace remained.
"I hit 9.4 metres per second the other day, second only to Jake Mamo who's running 9.6," he said.
"So it seems to have not affected my speed much.
"My agility is right up there and might nearly be the top in all the tests we've done.
"With our gym program, I'm carrying the weight well and learning a lot off Kurt Gidley about ball-playing."
The Auckland Nines will also be the official beginning of a new era for the Knights.
Hopes are high with Stone back in charge after the disappointment of the Wayne Bennett era and the club now under the NRL's stewardship.
Ross said that same enthusiasm was bubbling along at training.
"Everyone in the whole squad is hoping they can put in a good performance over there and start giving Newcastle something to be proud about with their football team again," he said.
"It's a new era with Rick Stone as coach and new players and there's a really good vibe in the camp at the moment.
"We talk about it a lot at training, about putting pride back into the jersey and everyone is buying into it."
Meanwhile, Knight back-rower Beau Scott was selected on Monday as captain of an NRL All-Stars containing clubmate Jeremy Smith to take on the Indigenous All Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on February 13.
Newcastle centre Dane Gagai has again made the Indigenous line-up and will come off an extended bench.
Scott was selected in the starting side of the NRL team, while Smith was named in a seven-man interchange bench.
The captaincy comes after a memorable 2014 season for Scott, who was a star for NSW in their drought-breaking Origin success and played for Australia during the Four Nations.
The 30-year-old re-signed with Newcastle late last year until the end of 2017.
THE KNIGHTS' AUCKLAND NINES SQUAD
1. Sione Mata'utia
2. Jake Mamo
3. Dane Gagai
4. Chanel Mata'utia
5. Carlos Tuimavave
6. Jarrod Mullen (c)
7. Tyrone Roberts
8. Pat Mata'utia
9. Adam Clydsdale
10. Paterika Vaivai
11. Tyler Randell
12. Chris Houston
13. Robbie Rochow
14. Nathan Ross
15. Korbin Sims
16. Joseph Tapine
17. Jack Stockwell
18. Danny Levi