Knights hooker Danny Levi.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has made several changes to his squad facing the Panthers in Friday's Telstra Premiership match at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Knights suffered a last start 18-point loss to South Sydney, and Brown says the changes give his younger players another chance at first grade level, as the hosts look to return to the winners list.

Prop Josh King will make his first NRL appearance of 2018, replacing Jacob Lillyman, while Danny Levi comes on to the bench in place of Jamie Buhrer. Luke Yates is also back on the bench.

"We've had a few blokes knocking on the door for a while," Brown said.

"Yatesy obviously played in the last two wins that we had, so he will come back in, and Kingy has been 18th man for a number of weeks now and his form in reserve grade has been very good.

"Danny (Levi) has played two games this year, one very good game and the other steady - and was very good last weekend (in reserves).

"So those guys have been rewarded for the form they have shown in the lower grades and our performance (against Souths), which we weren't as happy as we want to be."

Brown insists the changes were more of the younger players pushing their way into the first grade squad due to form, rather than punishing other players for below par recent performances.

Newcastle Knights five-eighth Brock Lamb.
Newcastle Knights five-eighth Brock Lamb. ©Mark Nolan/NRL Photos

"The good thing with all the guys is that they have earnt their way into the team, they haven't just been handed the jumper," the Knights coach said.

"Previously we were giving the jumpers away to get experience.

"The down side to that is obviously how much people want to fight to keep it and how much they appreciate it.

"The more people have to earn their position through reserve grade and really good form, the better long term our younger players will be."

Brock Lamb also returns at halfback, taking over from Jack Cogger who now sits in the extended squad.

"He (Lamb) played reserve grade a couple of weeks ago, and had a couple of games there and didn't play too bad," Brown said.

"It's not that he's gone back and is the best player, but certainly in his last game had three try assists and kicked the ball very well, and his defence was improving.

"So the improvement of his defence and kicking the ball is something we need."