CLUB legend Kurt Gidley believes that making the top eight is the bare minimum the Newcastle Knights should be aiming to achieve in 2020.
Newcastle have not appeared in the play-offs since 2013 and their implosion last season, when they lost nine of their last 12 games to finish 11th, remains fresh in the minds of many long-suffering supporters.
But Gidley, who has bravely come out of retirement at 37 to play in this weekend's Nines tournament, has no doubt that Newcastle have the players and collective desire to make amends by featuring in the business end of proceedings this year.
"We underachieved last year," Gidley told the Newcastle Herald.
"I don't think I'm speaking out of school in saying that.
"Top eight is the absolute minimum this year, and it probably was last year, too.
"Look, the players and the coach will have their goals set out, probably very soon, about where they want to finish up, and I'd imagine being in the top eight is the absolute minimum of where they want to be at the end of the year.
"Certainly that's where my expectations for them are, too, as an ex-player."
Gidley was highly impressed after attending his first training session under new coach Adam O'Brien on Saturday, to prepare himself for the Nines tournament, which kicks off in Perth on Friday night.
The former NSW Origin skipper and 12-Test Kangaroo retired from rugby league in 2017, after 251 NRL games for the Knights and 55 in Super League for Warrington Wolves.
He was one of the standout performers at the Legends of League veterans' tournament held last October but had no doubt the Nines would be a far tougher challenge.
"That's one of the reasons I trained with the team on Saturday," Gidley said.
"Adam invited me to come and participate in Saturday's session, which combined a bit of skills, fitness and contact.
"I was able to get a fair bit of contact done, which was important for me.
"Firstly for my own confidence, but also I wanted to get a bit of contact in early so I could get over the soreness and also prepare myself for what's coming."
Gidley keeps himself fit but admitted there "are definitely a few nerves there" as he prepares to take on young players who are in peak condition after a long pre-season.
"I guess I'll be much more nervous on Friday afternoon and evening, as we get closer to game time," he said.
"I think I'm still reasonably fit, training with some of my ex-teammates, but in terms of strength, speed and size, I'm probably lacking in those areas."
Gidley was expecting to play a mentoring role for the younger players named in Newcastle's squad but the desire to succeed and possibly win the tournament is ingrained in him.
"Even taking the Legends of League as an example, it's a bit of fun, but once you get into the quarter-finals or semi-finals, it starts to get a much more competitive," he said.
"That's in-built in us.
"Once it becomes competitive, we like to win ... I'm not out there to impress anyone - I want to represent the club and my teammates and myself the best I can.
"I don't want to embarrass myself, that's for sure."
Other club legends who will play in the Nines include Andrew Ryan (Canterbury), Pat Richards (Wests Tigers), Michael Gordon (Gold Coast) and Corey Parker (Brisbane).
he Knights announced their 18-man squad on Monday afternoon and it included a mix of youth and experience.
Key players such as Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti will not be risked, while Connor Watson and Kalyn Ponga are unavailable because they will play in next week's All Stars game.
But the squad still features first-grade regulars such as Aidan Guerra and Kurt Mann, who will be co-captains, Sione Mata'utia, Hymel Hunt, Mitch Barnett, Hymel Hunt and Jacob Saifiti.
New recruits Gehamat Shibasaki and Tyronne Roberts-Davis will wear the Newcastle jersey for the first time, while young tyros Starford Toa and Tex Hoy will get their chance to press for further opportunities.
Newcastle's squad is: 1. Aidan Guerra, 2. Kurt Mann, 3. Nathaniel Sasagi, 4. Bayden Searle, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Gehamat Shibasaki, 7. Starford To'a, 8. Tex Hoy, 9. Sione Mata'utia, 10. Tyronne Roberts-Davis, 11. Matt Soper-Lawler, 12. Pasami Saulo, 13. Jirah Momoisea, 14. Jacob Saifiti, 15. Brodie Jones, 16. Kurt Gidley, 17. Mason Lino, 18. Mitchell Barnett.
The Knights play the Warriors (Friday) and Penrith (Saturday) in their pool games.