COACH Scott Coleman has spent plenty of time in front of a whiteboard as the Newcastle Wildfires bed down their patterns of play ahead of the trial against Penrith at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The battle against the Emus in two grades is the Wildfires' only hit out before their first game back in the Shute Shield against Randwick at Coogee Oval in seven days.
Coleman plans to experiment with players in different positions and trial combinations. Most of all, he wants the players to stick to the structures they have been implementing for the past three weeks.
"We are definitely ready for the trial," Coleman said. "The players have been getting a bit edgey because we have been making mistakes at training. Some aren't familiar with the patterns because they have never played at this level. A lot of local teams just tend to fold around the corner and get up and chase the ball.
"We are getting them to hold width and get into shape all the time and restore energy. That is taking them a little bit longer than we expected to get used to.
"We have done a few whiteboard sessions on the sideline at training and then practised it on the field. Some guys are visual, some guys have to walk through it, some guys can just hear it. I am trying to cover all bases. Because we have 38 at training, we can do live scrimmage every time. There are definitely some key things I want to see."
Gun halfback Mahe Fangupo will make his debut after joining the squad this week. In a further boost, Jarome Wilson and Cody Edstein-Boyes, who had both intended to play in the Newcastle Rugby League, have committed to the Shute Shield campaign.
"Mahe will start in second grade but will get an opportunity in ones," Coleman said. "He jumped straight into group one of our fitness groups and held his own. That was quite pleasing."
Most of Coleman's interest will be on the battle between Chris Ale, Phil Bradford and Steve Lamont for the hooking role.
"There is very little between them," Coleman said. "Maybe Ale is just in front. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
"Essentially, there are three players going for two spots in the match-day 23. If I could get one or two of them to look at another position, we could have three in the 23.
"Phil did a bit of scrummaging at loose head on Thursday night and that might be an option. He is so good around the park. He knows and reads the game really well."
Lamont has played at breakaway for Hamilton, with Ale at hooker, but lacks the size needed to feature in the back-row in the Shute Shield.
The trial is closed to spectators due to Newcastle City Council COVID-19 restrictions.
"Lamont is just a competitor and always pushes himself to the limit. We did a bronco (fitness test) at the start of the campaign. He hadn't run for six weeks and posted a phenomenal time. At the end of it he collapsed. You need those competitors in your side."
Like Newcastle, Penrith return to the Shute Shield after being axed in 2018.
"They are very green as well," Coleman said. "They have a lot of guys across from rugby league, four or five players who have been contacted to NRL clubs and a few who were playing under-20s. They will big, physical and athletic. Therie rugby knowledge is where they might struggle. "
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