JAYDEN Brailey feels "fully fit" and "full of confidence" but hopes nerves will be "eased" following a recent trial run as the Knights hooker prepares to play his first NRL game in 12 months.
Brailey will wear the No.9 jersey and co-captain Newcastle when they host the Canterbury Bulldogs in Friday night's season opener at McDonald Jones Stadium.
It comes a fortnight after the Knights' pre-season meeting with title holders Melbourne in Albury and almost one year on from Brailey's campaign-ending knee injury in just his second appearance at the club.
The 24-year-old knows a competition match presents another step up on the comeback trail, with rehabilitation from ACL surgery dominating his 2020.
"I was pretty nervous before the trial being my first proper game, but hopefully the nerves will be a little bit more eased now I've got that out of the way," Brailey said before training at Wests Mayfield on Monday.
"I've got a little more confidence so I'm really looking forward to this Friday and just getting back to what I do best, playing some good football."
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Brailey has worked on his kicking game during the off-season and wants to ensure he's an attacking threat, however, simplicity would be key first up.
"I just want to get back in my groove this weekend," he said.
"I want to focus on the basics, on the fundamentals going into round one but also expand off that and play what I see.
"It's been a long time for me obviously since playing an NRL game so I just want to get out there and calm the nerves and play with confidence as well."
Brailey slots straight back into Newcastle's starting team, but halfback Mitchell Pearce will be the only other member of the No.1-choice spine with fullback Kalyn Ponga (shoulder) and five-eighth Blake Green (knee) still sidelined while recovering from operations.
Tex Hoy and Kurt Mann are the respective replacements.
"It's not ideal having a few injuries in the spine and throughout the team, but fortunately we've got some really good depth at the club," Brailey said.
"It's a good chance for them to bring a lot to our team and kick the year off with a really good win hopefully round one."
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