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Given an exemption to play at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines this weekend despite being suspended for the first five rounds of the upcoming season, Newcastle enforcer Tariq Sims isn't taking his time in New Zealand lightly.

Named co-captain of the Knights' squad alongside Robbie Rochow and Tyler Randell, Sims is hungry for his first taste of Nines football since winning the inaugural tournament with the North Queensland Cowboys. 

With over two months remaining before he returns to the NRL proper, Sims is looking forward to a reprieve from his enforced break from the game. 

"It's one of those things where I've seen the coming weekend as an opportunity to break up my extended pre-season. It's going to help me out a lot fitness-wise and just mentally helping me out get through the daily grind," Sims told

"Anyone who knows what pre-season is about, it's not that flash and it's pretty tough so to play this expansive sort of football that you do play in the Nines it's going to be exciting.

"Personally I can't wait to get out there, I love playing in New Zealand and obviously I can't wait to get back out in front of that big Eden Park crowd. I haven't played since the first year of the Nines so I'm excited to be out there and help lead the boys.

"I remember the last time I was here I made sure I soaked everything in so this time is going to be the exact same. I'm looking forward to mixing it up out there."

The Knights had a disappointing 2015 campaign that culminated with the wooden spoon and Sims believes Nathan Brown's first taste as coach will come with plenty of objectives.

"We're chasing consistency and obviously a hunger and fight to win. We have to get that killer instinct back and I think Brownie has really drilled it into us, they're starting to get the younger fellas fired up," Sims said.

"We have the bone structure there now and we just have to build around it moving forward. I do like the way he coaches. He knows what he wants and he knows how it needs to be done Brownie.

"He's very helpful about how he goes about getting you to where you need to be – be it physically or on the field."

The Knights will field six players yet to make their NRL debuts this weekend, with halves trio Will Pearsall, Jaelen Feeney and Brock Lamb set to take over playmaking duties. 

For Pearsall and Feeney in particular – the latter guiding the Knights to a NSW Cup premiership win last year – it's a huge opportunity to show their worth as genuine backups to Trent Hodkinson and Jarrod Mullen. 

Sims backs them all the way, even if they showed their age during Thursday's community visit to the Waitemata Seagulls and the Nines' Friday fan day. 

"To put it into perspective, a couple of the boys hadn't even made up a signature when they were getting asked for an autograph – they were just writing their name on the piece of paper," Sims said.

"It just goes to show how young and raw they are but they're no strangers on a footy field so I'm excited to see what they can do out there.

"We have a lot of explosive halves there so hopefully we can all just push there and go off the back of their flashy plays. It's going to do them wonders for their experience by playing against men rather than younger blokes."

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