It will be the first chance for Newcastle Knights fans to see the fruits of an unprecedented off-season recruitment campaign that delivered the likes of backline stars Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson and Tautau Moga.
But while the hype around the club has rarely been greater on the eve of a season, winger Nathan Ross says Saturday night’s trial against Parramatta at a sold-out Maitland Sportsground is more about rounding out preparations for round one rather than “blowing the lights out” against the Eels.
“We are not too worried about the result, we are worried about the process,”Ross said after the squad’s final training session in Maitland on Friday.
“We are worried about implementing everything we have learnt during the pre-season and if we do that, the results will come.
“We’ve got people in the team that can break open a game in Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson. So as long as we get our defence down pat and stick to our structures, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Coach Nathan Brown has named his strongest possible squad for the clash with the Eels but admits he won’t really know how advanced his team is until after the trial.
“There are no competition points at stake but it’s an opportunity to put into practice what we have been working on all pre-season,”he said.
“We have played a lot of opposed stuff at training and worked hard on combinations to get things right but you can take a lot more out of a proper game situation.
“We are obviously confident we are in a lot better position now than this time last year. But how far we have developed, you don’t really know until you get out there and play.
“The Eels are bringing a strong squad and there is nothing like playing a really good team to find out exactly where you are at.”
Ross said there is a good vibe among the players and a confidence in the brand of attacking ad-lib footy that they have been working on but he claims no-one is getting ahead of themselves.
“That was something we were a little bit guilty of last year,”he said.
“We did really well against the Raiders [in a trial] and then round one obviously wasn’t too good for us. We are just looking for a real solid performance.”
While there will be plenty of interest from the 7000-strong crowd in the Knights and how they shape up, the return of Jarryd Hayne in Parramatta colours will also capture plenty of attention.
It will be Hayne’s first game for the Eels since 2014 and he will feature in a star-studded Eels backline that includes Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses, Michael Jennings and Bevan French.
Meanwhile, the Knights’ long term partnership with Mine Super was strengthened on Friday with the company now featured on club’s playing strip for the first time.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with such a credible, well performing superannuation provider,”Knights CEO Phil Gardner said.