It is the partnership that has Newcastle Knights fans salivating before a ball has been kicked in 2018.
Incumbent NSW Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce and rising star Kalyn Ponga have wasted no time striking up a combination during pre-season training with the pair often leaving teammates and coaching staff reaching for the superlatives.
And they won’t have to wait long to test themselves under match-like conditions with coach Nathan Brown confirming both will play in a closed trial against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Stadium early next month.
The trial will be played at 3 pm on Wednesday, February 7 in an empty stadium as Melbourne prepare for their World Club Challenge clash against Leeds at the same venue on February 16.
While Storm coach Craig Bellamy is tipped to rest his biggest stars including Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, Brown indicated on Tuesday all his new recruits will feature during the club’s first trial.
“At this stage, we look like taking 24 players to Melbourne but we haven’t decided on who just yet,”he said.
“Some of our established players may not play in the first trial and we won’t be risking guys like Mitch Barnett and Daniel Saifiti who are coming back from surgeries.
“I’ll reward a few of the younger guys who have stood out during the pre-season and all our new players will definitely make the trip.
I’ll reward a few of the younger guys who have stood out during the pre-season and all our new players will definitely make the trip.- Coach Nathan Brown
“How many minutes we play them is hard to say at this stage but we want to give them as much time as possible to work on combinations in match conditions before round one.”
Brown said the club’s increased depth this season has resulted in a healthy competition for positions.
“The trials will be important for everyone because we have plenty of options in a lot of spots,”he said.
“There are certainly some guys who could push their claims for a place in the 17 for Manly by how they perform in the trials.”
The Knights final trial is against Parramatta at Maitland on February 24, marking Jarryd Hayne’s return .
Meanwhile, former Australian Test player, Peter Diversi, who finished his career at Kurri in the early 60’s, passed away on Tuesday.
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