Pickers coach Matt Lantry reckons Willis Alatini has the potential to be one of the best outside backs in the Newcastle Rugby League competition.
Alatini, one of five players to join Lantry at Maitland from Western Suburbs, returns to the field with a new club in 2020 after missing last season's premiership with the Rosellas because of an ACL injury.
Lantry feels the time off has only helped drive Alatini, who was poised to be one of the Rebels representative wingers 12 months ago.
"I think physically and mentally he [Alatini] is ready to go," Lantry said.
"He's motivated to rebound and return to where he was at the end of pre-season last year."
The Maitland mentor says Alatini has matured as a player and "he has the potential to be one of the best outside backs in the competition".
Lantry will be spoilt for choice in terms of outside backs at the Pickers with Alatini now alongside the likes of Gary Anderson, Elijah Resiga, Greg Morris and Elliott Jennings.
He has the potential to be one of the best outside backs in the competition."Matt Lantry
Alatini is unavailable for the Pickers trial with Central Coast outfit Wyong at Maitland on Saturday but will feature against Macquarie at home on March 28.
Fellow Rosellas recruits Alex and Daniel Langbridge are also out of action for the Pickers but former Wests pair Pat Mata'utia and Chad O'Donnell will don the black and white uniform.
Maitland are set to unveil former NRL pair Brock Lamb and Sam Mataora this weekend.
Lantry said Lamb, who was most recently with English Super League club London Broncos, would more than likely play "half a game".
"I couldn't fault him [Lamb]," Lantry said. "He's had a really good attitude."
In other trials on Saturday, Macquarie are at home to Lakes at Lyall Peacock Field while the Butcher Boys host The Entrance at St John Oval.
Meanwhile, reigning Newcastle RL rookie of the year John Toleafoa has been named in the Knights' Canterbury Cup squad to play against the New Zealand Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
Toleafoa, who played front-row for Lakes and the Rebels under-23 representative squad last season, will be used off the bench in the first-round fixture.
"It's a great reward for John ... all his hard work has paid off," Lakes coach Robbie Payne said.
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