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Brodie Jones isn't sure how many juniors games he played for the Goannas.
However, between the ages of nine and 17 it was a "fair few".
Jones, who made his NRL debut in 2020, returns to where it all started on Saturday when the Knights face last year's Newcastle Rugby League premiers in a trial at Cessnock Sportsground.
The East Maitland resident and former All Saints College student admits it may be a surreal experience playing against his old club in the Coalfields, but Jones also wants to state his case for a spot in the top squad ahead of next month's season opener.
"I think it will feel a little bit funny actually running out there and going 'wait that's my junior club'," Jones said.
"Once the whistle blows though it's footy so you just go out there and do your thing.
"Any footy is good ... I'll just be using it [trial] as per usual. Whether it's against Cessnock or Melbourne or whoever it is, I'll just be pushing my case for a spot."
Jones went along and watched last year's local grand final with the Goannas, including now Knights teammate Brayden Musgrove, defeating Souths by 14 points.
Both players find themselves in the starting side for the Knights, with Jones in the back-row and Musgrove at centre.
They will also be joined by lock Jack Johns, who has strong family links to Cessnock.
Harvey Neville, a member of the Goannas' title-winning campaign who has been training with the Knights over summer, was named in the extended 31-man squad earlier in the week.
Knights quartet Dylan Lucas, Harry Croker, Blake Campbell and Harry van Dartel were also part of that decider but for Souths.
Others called up from Newcastle RL clubs include Hayden Loughrey, Jaron Purcell, Zac Hosking, Liam Wilkinson and Sione Tuitupou-Kutu.
Matt Soper-Lawler and Henry Penn were part of Maitland's success in the statewide President's Cup in 2020.
Jones endorses the concept of pitting the reigning champions against the Knights.
"I think it's huge and it's a good thing for the Newcastle and Hunter Valley area," he said.
"It's a good thing if they run with it - the premiers get to verse the Knights. It's unreal I reckon. It should be a good day and it'll be good to be out there."
Having made seven appearances for the Knights last year, featuring a dramatic debut against grand finalists the Panthers in the first game back from the COVID-19 break, and with another pre-season under his belt Jones feels the "best I've ever been" and "wants to be playing NRL".
"Whatever it takes really to try and get there," the 22-year-old said.
Kick-off is 6pm, but gates open from 11am with two earlier games and an NRL training session part of FanFest activities.
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