He is a proven leader and one of the most respected figures within the Newcastle Knights playing group.
But like several of his team-mates who have been part of the furniture in the top grade over the past couple of seasons, Knights co-captain Jamie Buhrer faces the prospect of becoming a victim of the club’s highly successful recruitment drive next season.
Buhrer, along with the likes of winger Nathan Ross, backrowers Sione Mata’utia and Mitch Barnett and props Jacob Saifiti and Josh King, is facing a major battle to retain a place in the Knights’ top 17 for the NRL premiership opener against Cronulla.
While there is still more than three months of the pre-season left and a couple of trials to come before the 2019 season officially kicks off, the competition for spots has already been evident with a significant increase in intensity at training.
“The pre-season has been a step-up from last season for sure,” playmaker Mitchell Pearce said.
“It’s good. Everything is more intense. There’s more competition among the boys which has definitely had a lot to do with it.”
The signing of representative props David Klemmer and Tim Glasby, Warriors’ hitman James Gavet, Sharks duo Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee, Souths centre Hymel Hunt, Warriors playmaker Mason Lino, Bulldogs hooker Zac Woolford and the anticipated signing of Dragons utility Kurt Mann has been the catalyst for what shapes as a significantly revamped top squad.
Barring injury, it’s highly likely at least six of the nine new players will debut for the Knights in round one.
If Mann signs and centre Tautau Moga returns as expected from a fourth knee reconstruction in time, Lino, Woolford and Hunt would appear the likely three of the new boys to miss out.
Buhrer, who featured in 20 of the Knights’ 24 games last season, could potentially be used off the bench in a replacement hooker role but faces hot competition from Woolford and most likely, Mann.
Ross will challenge Lee for the left wing spot but given the Knights were very keen to off-load him during the off-season, he has plenty of ground to make up.
King, Jacob Saifiti and emerging young prop Pasami Saulo will have to be patient, given the prop rotation has been boosted by Klemmer, Glasby and Gavet.
Established starting backrowers Aidan Guerra and Lachlan Fitzgibbon should get first crack at the left and right edge positions but will be under increasing pressure next season because of Mata’utia’s move back into the forwards after missing just one game last season while playing in the centres.
If coach Nathan Brown goes with Herman Ese’ese at lock and Gavet and Daniel Saifiti as his bench props along with a second hooker, Mata’utia may find himself fighting it out with Barnett for the one remaining bench spot.
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