Knights back-rower Jamie Buhrer

Young Knights need to earn their place: Buhrer

Newcastle Knights forward Jamie Buhrer comes from the old-school era.

Several young players at the rebuilding club will be struggling to retain their first-grade berths next season due to the influx of seasoned recruits at the Knights.

Buhrer adopted a hard-line stance towards his younger teammates, offering little sympathy to those who are likely to make way for the opening round after earning their Telstra Premiership stripes during a difficult two-year period under coach Nathan Brown.

The 28-year-old veteran makes no apologies for his no-nonsense approach. Playing at the top level won't come as easy anymore.

"Last year while we had a lot quality we didn't have a lot of depth," Buhrer told NRL.com.

"That's what the best teams have. It's good we're finally in a position as a club to have that.

"It's not my job as a senior player to keep them focused or hungry, it's something you've either got or you don't. The thing about rugby league is nothing is ever given.

"To make a first-grade football team is hard work and to stay is even harder. If a lot of these younger blokes miss out on a first crack come round one, if they fight their way back and have sustained success in first grade, they'll have earned it.

"If they find it all too hard maybe they didn't belong there in the first place. Essentially it sounds like a hard attitude but that's rugby league and it's important every day you're putting your best foot forward. That should be all the motivation they need."

Buhrer will come up against his former club for the first time when Newcastle will take on the Manly Sea Eagles in round one.

Growing up idolising former Manly Sea Eagles legend Steve Menzies only meant one thing – he was born to play in the maroon and white.

Which naturally – given the fierce rivalry between the two clubs over the years – comes with an automatic dislike for the Knights.

Or perhaps not.

"It was early for me," Buhrer said.

"In 1997 and 2001 it didn't hold as much sway over me. It was early in my career and as a supporter I never felt that hatred towards the Knights.

"For some of those people who were following in the '90s I can certainly understand how it would.

"I came on board with Manly after that rivalry established itself. If anything, it was a good move to Newcastle in the sense that I was going from one beaches town to another, and a one-team town.

"The transition [to the Knights] was a lot more seamless than I expected."

The Knights-Sea Eagles rivalry has dimmed in the past decade with the Sea Eagles' success and tense battles with heavyweights Melbourne in the late-2000s turning the focus away from a once bitter feud.

Newcastle have also been limited to hosting Manly with only two fixtures in the past six seasons at McDonald Jones Stadium.

But don't expect Buhrer to go soft in his first appearance against his former club in round one – a looming grudge match that could provide the spark to re-ignite history.

After missing the only fixture between the sides with a fractured foot last season, Buhrer is on track to meet the club that broke his heart and released him to the Hunter in a sudden departure that caused uproar from devoted Sea Eagles fans.

Mitchell Pearce's decision to join the Knights also ruined the Sea Eagles' plans to replace Warriors-bound five-eighth Blake Green in the halves.

"I'm excited for it already. Some of my best mates are still at Manly and I speak to some of them almost every day," Buhrer said.

"I can tell you honestly when that draw came out we were all on the chat about it. It was a devastating game to miss out on this year at Brookie but I will be well and truly ready to go for round one.

"It's certainly circled in my calendar."