Positive signs for Knights: Brown
A strong performance from Newcastle in Queanbeyan has made Knights coach Nathan Brown's selection process much easier heading into their first round clash against the New Zealand Warriors in a fortnight.
Compared to this time last season, when Brown was forced to blood a club record five NRL debutants in Round 1, the team looks more settled on paper after gelling well in their 44-0 win over the Raiders on the weekend.
"Somewhere within that mix of 24 players [from the trial]," Brown said.
"We obviously haven't gone through that process yet but we've got a bit more work to do on the Canberra game later in the week.
"I don't think there will be any major surprises when we do pick our team."
Newcastle have endured a tough pre-season with injuries, and lost two more players before their final hit-out.
Young half Jaelen Feeney tore knee cartilage at training and is set to miss the opening month of the competition, while bench utility Tyler Randell suffered a minor hamstring strain in the lead up to the side's final trial, but should be fit for Round 1.
Former Parramatta prop Pauli Pauli (dislocated hip), Cowboys recruit Rory Kostjaysn (throat) and new English recruit Joe Wardle (knee) are all unavailable to start the season, and the side also lost five-eighth Jarrod Mullen earlier in the year through suspension.
"We had four or five guys that have first grade experience that are unavailable due to fitness and hopefully by Round five or six they'll be back on the park," Brown said.
"We also had a couple of guys that played reserve grade (Intrust Super Premiership) who featured a fair bit in first grade last year who aren't quite ready for different reasons."
Although the Raiders were missing several stars including outside backs Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana and injured skipper Jarrod Croker, the Knights coach was pleased with the performance of his side, and saw mass improvement after keeping the green machine scoreless.
Utility outside back Dylan Phythian looked promising in the No.1 jersey while Manly recruit Jamie Buhrer linked well with halfback Trent Hodkinson and Dane Gagai on the right edge.
"I was happy with what everybody did collectively," Brown said.
"We had new players at the club that all contributed well and had some blokes who played last year that we saw some really good signs of improvement in.
"But the proof will be when the competition starts and we're playing full-strength sides."