COACH Scott Coleman wants to restore pride in the Newcastle jumper.
Over the past decade, interest in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union representative program has diminished.
Last year, the union withdrew from the senior Country Championships due to the cost and the lack of a pathway for senior players.
In the years preceding, Newcastle had made the final or won with almost second-string teams.
It's a situation the NHRU - and Coleman - are keen to change and are banking on a new representative program, culminating with a tour to Argentina in September, to be the catalyst.
Under the rejigged format, most matches will be in Newcastle against marquee opponents like the Western Force and the Australian Army and there will be little impact on clubs.
The first of three open training sessions will be held at Gibbs Brothers Oval, Merewether, on Wednesday night.
Coleman is hoping for 20-30 players to attend headed by the likes of Anderson Medal-winner Travis Brooke, Carl Manu, Zac Crowley, Steve Lamont, Dylan Heins, Bill Coffey and former Canberra Vikings prop Nick Dobson.
"We want to make the program attractive so that every player from every club wants to have a crack at it," Coleman said. "That is why we made it an open trial to ensure that everyone gets an opportunity. I have been contacted by a couple of players from divisional rugby who want to be involved."
The opening game is against the Western Force's rapid global rugby side, playing the modified rules, on February 29, before games against Illawarra in Wollongong, which is a curtain raiser to a Super Rugby clash on March 6, March 6), Arizona State University and Warringah (March 14), Parramatta (March 21) and the Australian Army (May 13).
"Most of the games are at home, so the players get the chance to perform in front on family and friends," Coleman said. "Matches against the Force and Sydney clubs also give players exposure to the next level."
A number of Sydney players, headed by Novocastrians Nick Palmer (Norths) and Sam Fogarty (Easts), will be drafted in for the clash against the Force.
Coleman said senior and junior club coaches are welcome to to attend training.
"We want to also educate coaches," Coleman said. "Paul Nixon will be available to them to explain what we are doing and why."
Coleman will be assisted by former Wallabies halfback and Singleton coach Steve Merrick and Steve Barretto (scrum), while Sam Berry, Michael Delore and Jono Wilson will also be involved.