Knights have Depth, Maturity and Pride: Smith
The competition for places in the Knights’ side is an indicator to Smith that the boys from the Hunter could be returning to their glory days which saw them win two Premierships in four years.
Luke Walsh and proven match-winner Scott Dureau are battling for the halfback position, while George Ndaira, Isaac De Gois and Matt Hilder are all competing for the hooking duties.
Throw in Ben Rogers and Jarrod Mullen who are competing for five-eighth and the ever versatile Kurt Gidley and it is a selection headache Smith loves to have.
“This year we really feel like we have quite a bit of depth in almost every position and we have a lot of adaptable players in our club,” he said.
“While I think Isaac De Gois is probably in the best position for the hooking spot, George Ndaira is going to be a great back-up player for us and has some versatility himself. He has played a bit in the halves and Matt Hilder can definitely play hooker as well.
“Last season his work off the bench for us really made a difference in a number of games.
“He put an emphatic value on that position for us last year and I’m sure he will continue that this year.”
While Smith has the luxury of three hookers, two halfbacks and a genuine star in Gidley, he is most pleased with the team’s work ethic and commitment in pre-season training.
“The most exciting thing about coaching the Knights this year is probably the stability that we have,” he said.
“We have a lot of guys who have just re-signed in the last season or are on extended deals.
“This year we have already had Cory Patterson and now Junior Sau who have committed themselves to the Knights for the long term.
“It is exciting that we are in the position where we can see a maturity start to develop in our team, a comradery, a friendship and pride.”
The Knights finished 2008 on 28 points, two points outside of the top 8, the highest points total to ever miss making the finals in the NRL.
Not that it was any consolation for coming so agonisingly close.
But the Knights are not dwelling on last year. They are focused on improving and assuring themselves a place in the finals.
“The way these guys have worked through preseason, I’ve got nothing but confidence in what can be achieved and we have to continue to work at that.
“There is no doubt it is going to be a tough season, every season is in the NRL, but we are well placed to do well this year.
“I would hope we improve on last year and I think there are a few teams that have improvement in them this year.
“I think it depends how much we improve that will determine if we are there in the big games at the end of the season or not.”
The Knights play their last trial match against the Sharks this Saturday at Cessnock, kickoff is from 7:30pm.