NEWCASTLE Knights coach Wayne Bennett was delighted to be back in Tamworth again on Saturday night.
Even more delighted his Knights beat Canberra Raiders 34-14 in their final trial.
He said it was good to be able to bring games out to places like Tamworth.
“It’s what the game’s all about. It’s not just about Sydney and the capital cities of Australia,” Bennett said.
It was the Knights’ first real hit-out and, considering that, Bennett was pretty happy with what he saw.
“I wasn’t disappointed with what we did,” he said.
“As I said, it’s our first trial of the season. There were some good signs there.
“I think we can get a lot better.”
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was also pretty upbeat about his side’s performance.
“That was our first hit-out with our firsts team,” he said.
He said the timing probably wasn’t quite there but that will probably take four or five games to come.
Both coaches were trialling their halves combinations and have some big decisions to make.
Terry Campese was a late withdrawal for the Raiders and stayed back in Canberra.
Stuart said they would look at the balance of the team as they roll over the next seven or eight days before deciding who partners him.
Bennett wasn’t sure after the game where he’ll go with the halves after fullback Darius Boyd played five-eighth in the first half and then Kurt Gidley came on and played the final 20 minutes there.
Halfback Tyrone Roberts was strong for Newcastle and, after re-signing with the club for a further two years last week, he’ll be set for a major jump in responsibilities following Jarrod Mullen’s injury.
The No.7’s kicking game was sharp during his time on the field and it will need to stay that way when the season proper kicks off in a fortnight’s time, given Mullen has one of the best left boots in the game.
Roberts set up Akuila Uate for a first-half try with a pin-point kick, as the Knights went to the break with a 12-10 lead.
Bennett has plenty of options in the halves, with Michael Dobson also spending time in the middle.
Canberra played its stronger side in the opening 40 minutes, and Jack Wighton appears a frontrunner to wear the No.7 under new coach Ricky Stuart after spending time in the halves.
Wighton has played the majority of his young career at centre or wing, but Stuart believes he has the game smarts and kicking game to succeed closer to the action.
The 21-year-old played five-eighth when coming through the grades in the under-20s competition and a nice kick set winger Edrick Lee up for the Raiders’ first try.
Canberra forward Paul Vaughan was another standout up front for the visitors, while Josh McCrone and Glenn Buttriss both put their hands up for the vacant hooker position with strong efforts.
Newcastle forward Zane Tetevano suffered a hand injury and forward Jeremy Smith was taken off as a precaution with a bump on his knee.