NEWCASTLE assistant coach Rick Stone says Tamworth fans will see the best his club has to offer when the Knights tackle Cronulla Sharks in an NRL trial at Scully Park, Tamworth on February 23.
The former first grade coach, who brought the Knights to Tamworth for a training camp during his time in the top job, will be back to help Wayne Bennett and the first grade squad take on what is likely to be a formidable Sharks outfit.
Stone is also coach of the Newcastle Knights NSW Cup side which went down to a stronger Parramatta side in Armidale on Saturday and said the first graders would have another week off before starting their 2013 campaign.
“We’ll be in Coffs Harbour (to play South Sydney) the week before,” Stone said.
“We get to Tamworth on the Tuesday afternoon (February 19).
“We’ll spend a few days in Tamworth and have a lookaround before the trial game at Scully Park against the Sharks.”
Unfortunately Danny Buderus has been ruled out of the start of the season with a back injury that needed surgery.
Other Knights and Sharks players who are not fully fit will also sit the game out but otherwise Stone said he expects the two teams to be full strength in Tamworth.
The Sharks have signed well, with Michael Gordon, Luke Lewis, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington all heading to the shire, but the Knights should also be stronger in 2013 with the return of Kurt Gidley and the acquisition of Jeremy Smith from the Sharks, as well as Beau Scott, BJ Leilua and David Faalogo.
Along with rep stars like Paul Gallen and Aku Uate, Stone said all of those stars should play at least some part in the trial.
“The Sharks have added a bit to their team,” Stone said.
“We’ll most likely have our top 20 or 22 players there. It will be up to the coach as to how much time they will play but it’s sure to be our best players who play in Tamworth.”
Both clubs will also bring their under 20s squads to play in the curtainraiser ahead of the start of the Holden Cup (formerly Toyota Cup).