Knights No.9 Jayden Brailey has embraced the extra expectation that comes with being the club’s No.1 off-season recruit.
The former Sharks hooker is one of three new faces in the Newcastle team to host the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday, and hopes for a better result than the season-opener last year when the Knights defeated Cronulla 14-8.
“I was on the receiving end this time last year in round one,” Brailey said on Wednesday.
“It’s definitely a very hostile environment, being an opposition player, and hopefully this weekend we can get a good turn-out.
"This is part of the reasons why I came up to the Newcastle Knights, just how passionate the fans are about the Knights football team.
“It would be nice for them to be cheering me on this week and hopefully we can get a win for them.”
Brailey ready for Knights debut
The 23-year-old rake, who played 69 games for the Sharks in the past three seasons, has been the Knights’ most recognisable off-season signing since arriving last November on a three-year deal.
Praised for his patience and poise, Brailey was signed to be Newcastle’s first-choice hooker and that position was solidified in late January when Danny Levi was granted a release to join Manly.
“I guess I’ve played about 70 games now and obviously got a little bit of experience, and I want to bring that here and I want people to see the value I bring to the Knights football side,” Brailey said.
“I believe I’ve got a lot of good things to my game that I can bring to the boys … so there probably is a little bit of expectation but that’s part and parcel of the game, and it’s probably something I’ve gotten used to.”
Hoping to log 60 to 80 minutes in the middle, Brailey is excited at the prospect of combining with captain Mitchell Pearce, five-eighth Kurt Mann and fullback Kalyn Ponga in a revamped spine.
“He’s champing at the bit to get out there as well,” Brailey said of his skipper.
“He hasn’t stopped talking about footy for the last three or four months, so he’s definitely excited, and he’s our leader and all the boys look up to him.
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“I’ve watched him for a long time now. He’s been such a great player and it’s a privilege to play alongside him, so I’ve just got to get my service right and get him some good passes.”
After making their NRL debuts with the Broncos and Cowboys respectively, young centres Gehamat Shibasaki and Enari Tuala will also make their first appearances in Newcastle colours.
The North Queensland-born, Townsville-raised former Junior Kangaroos team-mates took their chances in trials after injuries sidelined Bradman Best (foot) and Tautau Moga (hamstring).
Tuala, 21, will partner Edrick Lee on the left edge and 22-year-old Shibasaki, who was released from the final year of his contract with Brisbane last December to sign a three-year deal with the Knights, will start at right centre inside Hymel Hunt.
Brailey ready for Knights debut
“It’s the same feeling as when I made my NRL debut – new club, new beginning – so I’m really excited,” Shibasaki said.
Though he feels he and Tuala have earned their selection for opening day, Shibasaki said they were taking nothing for granted.
“Making round one, the round one team will not be the same team towards the back end of the year so we both need to keep working hard … because there’s always room for improvement, and trying to keep that spot will be our main priority,” he said.