Knights five-eighth Jake Clifford says the luxury of a pre-season with his Knights teammates is already showing benefits.
Clifford made a mid-season switch from Townsville to the Hunter last year and acquitted himself well, adding plenty of value to a then-struggling Knights roster.
But a full summer working on combinations with Adam Clune, Kalyn Ponga and the rest of the 2022 roster has been a godsend for the ex-Cowboy who was close to his team's best in last Saturday's 20-6 win over the Roosters.
"It's enormous what a full pre-season with the boys can do," Clifford told NRL.com.
"Coming in mid-year (last year) and not knowing the way people like to play and the style of footy they like to play, you have to play catch up as soon as you can and make do with what you've got.
"Getting the full pre-season is really beneficial not just for my sake but for KP and Clunes. Now we've got to keep improving every week."
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All the little areas around knowing the teams plays and calls and how other players prefer to receive the ball were things Clifford was able to brush up on with a full summer to work.
"Knowing the calls, how your outside men like to run off you, all that little stuff people might not recognise sometimes, it can make a play or break a play," Clifford added.
"Getting little combinations like that has been really enjoyable. I've loved my time in the pre-season working with all the boys."
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There were also benefits off the field with some time to get to know his new teammates properly off the field.
"I thought I fit in really well with all the boys last year as soon as I got into the club," Clifford said.
"I felt welcome, my family felt welcomed. We connected really well on the Sunny Coast (when the competition moved to Queensland).
"We tried to replicate that in the pre-season here, just being connected and enjoying everyone's company and getting to know people outside of football as well. I think that's going to be really beneficial for us moving forward."
Knights coach Adam O'Brien praised the budding combination between Clifford and former Dragon Clune and the temperament each showed against the Roosters.
"The control of the game from Adam in particular was really good, he's a smart guy on and off the field," O'Brien said.
"It allows Cliff to be Cliff too, he runs the ball well. There's stuff there that we want to get better at but they're doing a pretty good job. They've had a good summer, the halves. And the spine's been great having (Ponga) the whole summer."
Clifford's running game has been a feature of the Knights pre-season and into round one, with tries in both tries before the game-breaking four-pointer against the Roosters. He praised the impact of his edge partners Tyson Frizell and Dane Gagai, along with Clune.
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"Having Friz and Gags outside me, it's definitely opening up opportunities for me to run and having K outside me as well, they're three Origin players and it opens opportunities for me like that. I'm loving playing outside those boys," Clifford said.
Clune in particular had been a big help.
"He is very intelligent, he always wants to learn," Clifford added.
"He's a very talkative person with how he wants to play. We're always looking back on training and having chats about how we could be better and where we want each other, stuff like that we can be open and honest which will put us in good stead moving forward."