NEWCASTLE coach Wayne Bennett reckons Cronulla should be re-named the Tigersharks due to the number of former Wests Tigers in this year’s squad.
But whatever they’re called his main focus will be on his side and its final trial game of the pre-season at Tamworth’s Scully Park tonight.
The Knights take on the Sharks from 7.30pm in what promises to be an entertaining contest for local fans and a chance to see some of the biggest names in the game in the flesh.
Cronulla was in the premiership mix last year before faltering in the finals.
With some major off-season signings, they look even stronger this year and will be a stern challenge for the Knights.
“They are better,” Bennett said.
“There’s a lot of Tigers players there now.
“They might start calling themselves the Tigersharks.
“But we’re stronger too.”
Bennett said both sets of forwards look good, with Chris Heighington and Luke Lewis added to the Cronulla engine room and Jeremy Smith, David Fa’alogo and Beau Scott recruited to Newcastle.
But the big difference for the Knights might be the return of captain and half Kurt Gidley after he missed most of last year with injury.
“It’s a huge difference,” Bennett said.
“You can see it already in the team.”
The trial match is the last chance for both sides to work on their game in a full match environment.
Bennett’s hopes for the game are simple.
“No injuries and match fitness,” he said.
His goal for the whole season is just as basic.
“Play better than last year,” he said.
But that’s easier said than done and the wily old coach will have a more complex set of plans to make it happen.
Near the top of the to-do list is consistency.
He said the Knights had failed in that regard in the past 12 months and to make the top eight and beyond it is a situation that must change.
The Knights held their last training session at Scully Park yesterday and the coach reported his approval at the performance of his 27-man squad.
But the bigger test will be tonight’s game, which should see a packed house and plenty of support for both sides.
The under 20s kick off the evening at 4.45pm, with the first graders running on at 7.30pm.