NRL | Knights enforcer Mitch Barnett gets seal of approval for season opener against Manly

He is tough and uncompromising and you won’t find him taking a backward step for anyone.

Which is why Newcastle enforcer Mitch Barnett will be in the club’s 17-man squad for the premiership opener against Manly even though he will miss Saturday night’s final trial against Parramatta at Maitland following off-season shoulder surgery.

FAITH: Mitch Barnett

FAITH: Mitch Barnett

While Knights coach Nathan Brown will use the Eels game to finalise the make-up of his forward pack for the Sea Eagles clash with one or two spots still in contention, he has already guaranteed Barnett’s position is not in question.

“Barney will definitely be in the squad for Manly,”Brown told the Newcastle Herald.

“He got enough points up last year Barn, and you have to show some loyalty to the blokes who have been doing the business.

“He was our Player of the Year last year and he is just a real good, tough player.” 

Brown admitted a hit-out against the Eels would have benefited his backrower but there was no need to take any undue risk with his reconstructed shoulder.

“I’d have much rather he had a game under his belt for sure and he would have played if it was a big game,”Brown said.

“All the clubs are getting everyone who is fit out for a game this weekend and playing some sort of footy before round one.

“It obviously offers some sort of benefit and Barney is a young, up-and-coming player who is still only 35 odd games in so him playing a game this weekend would be better.

“But I’ve got a lot of confidence in Barney and he adds plenty to our pack so he will be in the 17 for the Manly game for sure. He might be a bit underdone fitness wise but come round one, there are going to be plenty of teams who will have a few blokes who are going to be blowing quite a bit.” 

With Barnett in cotton wool, Brown opted to switch prop Herman Ese’ese into the No.3 jumper rather than use Jamie Buhrer in the role against the Eels.

Buhrer will instead come off the bench.

Brown said he wanted to run with three genuine props against the Eels.

“I thought we just needed some bigger middles out there to start against the Eels, that’s all,” he said.

“Jamie will spend some time in the middle but he will also get some time on the edge as well to push his case as an edge player.”