Newcastle legend Danny Buderus has backed Danny Levi to win the race for the Knights' hooking role and claim his famous No.9 jersey this season.
Levi is in a battle with new recruit Kurt Mann for the 2019 starting role, with Slade Griffin's absence through a knee injury expected to extend through the first four months of the season.
A rising talent at Newcastle for the past four seasons, Levi is yet to spend a full year in the starting role after having played almost half of his 66-game career off the bench.
But Buderus, after working closely with Levi over several years, believes the 23-year-old Kiwi is ready to be Newcastle's first-choice dummy-half for the season opener against Cronulla.
"This is his time now," Buderus said.
"He knows he can play better as well. That also helps when you've got a different team around you which he has now.
“He's got to lead the way and not overplay his hand and just play his natural game."
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With Brown set to start Levi at No.9, it will allow Mann to come off the bench as a utility, similar to his role at St George Illawarra last year when he filled in almost every position.
Buderus on Friday will help to kick off the annual Hogs for the Homeless motorcycle tour through regional NSW with Brad Fittler and other ex-players.
The tours have previously raised $700,000 for Youth off the Streets.