Knights hooker Danny Levi.

Brown drops hooker Levi for team balance

Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown says the changing nature of the game and the need to get balance in the side were the reasons for leaving out Danny Levi from the team to play Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on Friday night.

The New Zealand national representative was pipped by ex-Melbourne Storm player Slade Griffin for the hooker role in one of the first major headaches for coach Brown.

He admits that it is not as simple as picking the side on form, with rules surrounding injuries and concussion meaning that balance and versatility across all positions is needed.

"That was probably a tough call on Danny to be fair," Brown said.

"Danny was disappointed, but he has handled it well.

"It is not to do with form by no means.

"It's to do with balance of the team because back in the day you didn't have to worry about that too much, but with the concussion rules today, players have to come off the field."

Knights utility Slade Griffin.
Knights utility Slade Griffin. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

New recruit Connor Watson was selected to start in the halves alongside new recruit Mitchell Pearce.

"We have got confidence in Connor and as I've always said when you compare Connor and Brock you're not comparing apples with apples as they're both different types of players," Brown said

"As I've said to Brock at the start of the year, who knows how things will unfold with injuries.

"Connor is also very good at fullback as well, but it's all to do with versatility with our team."

After starting in the halves for most of last year, Brock Lamb will come off the bench for the first round of the Telstra Premiership.

Newcastle Knights utility Connor Watson.
Newcastle Knights utility Connor Watson. ©Paul Barkley / NRL Photos

Brown admits Watson is a "moveable piece" as he prepares to start the season with Lamb in the shadows.

"I think Connor knows we have confidence in him," Brown said.

"I'd like to think the faith we put in Brock last year that he would think we have confidence in him as well and more importantly, I think the teammates have confidence in either one.

"If you talk to Mitchell (Pearce), he loves what Brock can bring to the table and he loves what Connor can bring to the table as well.

"From a team's point of view, everyone is comfortable with the decision."

A crowd of more than 20,000 is expected to be in attendance to roar on their new look side.