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Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown said the impressive first seasons of  Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce at the Knights has given the club the key position players around which he can build success.

Pearce's worth to the club was proven during his 10-game absence due to a pectoral injury. The period included just three wins.

In Ponga and Pearce, Brown knows he has two top-line players. That, combined with a handful of new recruits and those remaining after the 2018 season, has Brown casting an eye towards finals football in 2019.

"The most exciting thing for the team and the town is that we've got some players in key positions that we can build the club around – in [Mitchell] Pearce and Kalyn [Ponga]," Brown told

"A lot of sides, at times, have a lot of strengths in a lot of positions but finding blokes that can get you over the line in key positions is sometimes the hardest to fill.

"We've built a foundation and we feel like we've made some good recruitment decisions already and hopefully over the next month or two we can make a few more happen."

Five key matchups of the Knights' 2019 draw

The Knights have already welcomed 2017 Storm premiership winner Tim Glasby and Sharks backs Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee to the club, and they remain on the lookout for more talent due to a healthy salary cap situation.

Talk linking the club to wantaway Bulldogs, NSW and Australian prop David Klemmer continues to excite Newcastle fans.

Brown said the addition of Glasby, who played off the hip of Billy Slater and Cameron Smith for Melbourne over the last six years, will prove a winner. 

"First of all we know that Tim is a very reliable player - we know that he's going to produce a similar type of game every week," Brown said.

"Apart from what he does on the field, we're quite hopeful of the impact he's going to have on our emerging forwards on the training paddock."

Brown said what has been key in terms of recruiting is ensuring the club have players right across the park who are able to step up if the spate of injuries Newcastle suffered in 2018 is repeated.

"One main area to improve in our game would be learning how to cope without certain people," Brown said.

"We were tracking okay last season before we lost Mitchell and didn't cope with that very well.

"Hopefully over the next six weeks, we can have some things in place that if we don't have those key players than we can still perform at a level where we can win games.

Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce.
Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce. ©NRL Photos

Brown said he has high expectations for the squad he's assembled to take on the 2019 season.  

"Every year we have made a reasonable improvement and next year the pressure is on to improve a reasonable amount again," Brown said.

"If we do that then we will put ourselves in a decent position on the ladder - that's the challenge.

"I understand that as the coach and I think that with what we have recruited and with what we've developed we should have high expectations for 2019."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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