Despite having been his side’s best forward in 2017, Newcastle Knights prop Daniel Saifiti knows he still has to win himself a spot for round one of the 2018 Telstra Premiership.
Considered one of the best young props in the Telstra Premiership, Saifiti is expected to shoulder a heavy load again this year.
Firstly, he wants to make a starting prop spot his own, beginning with Saturday night’s trial clash with Parramatta at Maitland.
“Anything can happen just in this trial match against Parramatta, but to make the first round is definitely my goal,” Saifiti said.
The 21-year-old Fijian said that even if he does win selection for round one, there will be plenty of pressure from others trying to take that spot from him during the season.
The Knights boosted their front-row stocks with the addition of veteran duo Jacob Lillyman and Chris Heighington, with that pair hoping to combine with Saifiti and his brother Jacob to form a solid front-row rotation.
“There’s a lot of competition for spots this year and you will not get away with stuff like we did last year with bad performances,” Saifiti said.
“Everyone is very keen to make the starting team.
“I just have to make sure I am doing my best to be in the starting seventeen each week.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown is planning to use the Eels match to give his senior players more game time in the push to build successful combinations ahead of round one.
“There are some spots that we’re pretty settled in and that’s regardless of how certain people go this week,” Brown said.
“But on the other hand, for a lot of our younger players who I suppose have had an easier run into first grade, they need to understand [that] to be a good first grader and in a side that wins games, you need to play consistently well for long periods.
“I understand no-one is perfect every week, but striving to be good every week is certainly a great challenge. To be a good NRL player, that’s what you need to do.”
The coach believes the depth in the forwards is a good welcomed selection headache - to find the best blend of youth and experience.
As well as Lillyman and Heighington, the Knights have also added Herman Ese’ese, Slade Griffin and Aiden Guerra to the side that finished at the foot of the ladder in 2017.
Saturday’s trial at Maitland Sportsground is officially a sell-out.