Feeney fullback berth no gamble: Brown
Knights coach Nathan Brown insists playing 21-year-old rookie Jaelen Feeney at fullback in Newcastle's season opener on the Gold Coast would not be a gamble.
With recognised fullbacks Nathan Ross and Jake Mamo still vying for spots in the outside backs, Brown backed the untried Feeney to do a job if given the chance in first grade.
"[Playing Jaelen is] not a gamble. [A] gamble is when you probably don't know anything about something. Gambling is betting on race horses. I'd call it an educated opinion," Brown said.
"We have seen Jaelen at training and we're very comfortable in his ability as a player. He sees the game very well and his training has improved, and he's a good natural football player.
"He wants to get better and we have seen some good signs over the pre-season and in the game. He also showed signs of a lack of experience, which you're going to get."
Noticing Feeney's potential as a fullback during the Newcastle NSW Cup team's run to the NRL State Championship last September, Brown noted the Nerang junior started to show what he was capable of throughout Newcastle's trial loss to the Raiders last weekend.
"He had some really, really good parts to his game and he had some parts where his inexperience at fullback showed. He's since come through that and I'm sure we'll see Jaelen improve week-to-week," Brown said.
"That's the key for someone like Jaelen, he's just started first grade and in his case he's just started playing fullback. Last week was better than his first game where he played 40 minutes in a reserve grade game the week prior.
"Against the Raiders he came up with two try assists and a try so any fullback would be pretty happy with that. On the other hand there were areas from a defensive point of view where positional-wise he could improve a little bit.
"But he's also never been in that situation before so nobody could expect him to know. All the training in the world doesn't prepare you for playing, so I can imagine as the weeks go on he'll continue to improve."
Meanwhile Brown was hopeful of naming the Knights' captain for 2016 in the coming days, following Kurt Gidley's departure.
Flirting with the idea of naming co-captains – an idea he followed through with at the Dragons in 2007 – Brown named Tariq Sims, Trent Hodkinson and Jeremy Smith as candidates for the vacancy.
"We have a bit of a leadership group at the moment and we'll probably make a decision and announce a captain or co-captains if you like, over the next couple of days. All three guys [Hodkinson, Smith and Sims] are all good candidates," Brown said.
"Obviously Jeremy is at the back end of his career at 35. He obviously carries a lot of experience and been a very successful player throughout his career. 'Hokko' has a very calm, cool head and 'Taz' is a real good emerging leader.
"We have some really good candidates there which is pleasing – we're just still debating whether to go with multiple captains or just go with one."