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Knights forward Mitchell Barnett.

Knights hard head Mitch Barnett is indebted to Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.

But that will not stop the Newcastle forward from ripping into the Raiders at GIO Stadium on Friday and trying to spoil Stuart's night.

The multiple premiership-winning former NSW and Australian halfback gave Barnett his first NRL start at the Raiders in 2015, then agreed to release him midway through the following season so he could re-join the club where he played his first junior representative football.

"Ricky gave me my opportunity to start with first of all then he released me when he didn't have to, to come back here," Barnett said on Monday.

"When I see him, I still say hello and have a chat to him. He was really influential in my development and my career so I can't thank him enough. I had a really good four or so years down in Canberra and really enjoyed my time there, but I've been here for a while now and loving it."

Every try from Round 2

Barnett was one of Newcastle's most damaging forwards in their 16-14 loss to Penrith at McDonald Jones Stadium last Saturday, scoring a try, making three tackle breaks, eight runs for 79 metres and 30 tackles in 38 minutes off the bench.

"There's still one or two things that I need to fix coming off the bench but I was happy with my personal game. I just wish it was enough to get us over the line," he said.

He was really influential in my development and my career so I can't thank him enough

Mitch Barnett on Ricky Stuart

The 24-year-old Wingham Tigers product would prefer to be starting – in his 54 games for the Knights before this season, only three have been from the bench – but he has accepted his role supporting middle forwards David Klemmer, James Gavet and Tim Glasby.

"I've had to adjust my game a little bit. I haven't started from the bench too often, and I've usually hyped myself up for kick-off so I've had to tone it down a bit in the warm-ups," he said.

Another former Raider, giant winger Edrick Lee, was Newcastle's other try-scorer against the Panthers. He should have had a second in the 69th minute but lost the ball when tackled over the line by James Maloney.

"It was one of those ones where he popped up at the right time and managed to get the strip," Lee said of Maloney's match-defining play.

Knights winger Edrick Lee.
Knights winger Edrick Lee. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

Including his NRL debut, Lee played 59 games for the Raiders between 2012 and 2016 then spent the past two seasons at Cronulla before arriving in Newcastle last summer.

He said the Raiders had made too many personnel and tactical changes since he left for him to offer Knights coach Nathan Brown and inside information this week but he enjoyed returning to the national capital each year.

Playing on Newcastle's left wing, Lee will match up against former team-mate Jordan Rapana, who made an earlier than anticipated return from reconstructive shoulder surgery in Canberra's 22-10 home loss to the Storm last Friday.

Annesley discusses key decisions from Round 2

"Obviously you have a relationship with them off the field, but once you get on the field, there isn't any mates on the field," Lee said.

Meanwhile, Knights chief executive Philip Gardner believed the club's involvement with the NRL Touch Premiership would help attract more women to the game as participants on and off the field.

Newcastle, who will field men's and women's teams, are one of eight NRL clubs in the competition, which has grown to 26 game days over five months. The competition will start on April 6 and Newcastle will play their first games against Parramatta in Mudgee on May 19.

"It's a tremendous pathway for everyone to be involved in our sport," Gardner said.

"Certainly for us, it's the main one in which we see women being involved in the sport in a participation base and feeding through … and if you look at how we engage our fan base, touch is the absolute best way for us to go."

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