POWERHOUSE Knights centre Bradman Best says he's pushing to be a leader at the club and an Origin player in 2022 after a stop-start two seasons in the NRL.
The 20-year-old has been among Newcastle players training since last week, before many of the senior Knights start their pre-season next week.
Best is back despite still recovering from off-season thumb surgery, which continued an unlucky start to his career with injuries.
He has been wearing gloves during training sessions to protect the hand but said it was "all good".
"I'm really good," said Best, who burst onto the scene in the final three games of 2019.
"Last year I obviously had a few little niggling injuries and a few little setbacks.
"This year I'm feeling really good, I feel healthy and I'm ready to go."
Best played 17 games in 2021, missing three early in the year with an elbow issue, one with a hamstring problem before a five-game absence with an ankle injury.
He made a timely return to help the Knights go on a five-game winning streak and clinch a finals berth.
The interrupted campaign followed foot and ankle surgeries in 2020, which restricted him to just 11 appearances, from which he scored eight tries to stamp himself as a NSW Origin prospect.
Best hoped to deliver on that potential in 2022.
"For sure, that's obviously a goal of mine," he said of Origin selection.
"I've got to rip in at training here, it all starts here."
Helping his cause this year is the Knights' recruitment of club champions to guide the next generation. Immortal Andrew Johns is working with the halves, while Kurt Gidley is advising the outside backs.
"With all the new staff as well, they are obviously helping me achieve my goals and I just can't wait to rip in and do everything I can," Best said.
"We've got a lot of Old Boys which we're very happy to have here and I'm very excited to work with them.
"It's been a really good experience, picking into their brains and listening, just hearing them speak and how they look at the game and do things their way, so it's pretty cool and I've picked up a few things here and there."
Although still young, Best has become a pivotal player for the Knights, who this year re-signed him until the end of the 2024 campaign.
The pressure on Best to produce as a strike weapon should ease somewhat next season with the recruitment of Queensland Origin centre Dane Gagai on a three-year deal.
The Central Coast product, though, still wants to keep growing into a senior member of the club.
"That's the role I want to take on as well," he said. "I know I'm only young, but I want to be an older head sort of thing.
"I'm really excited and I do want to push to be a leader in this club."
While the Knights have boosted their centre stocks, the recent departure of Mitchell Pearce has left them searching for an experienced half and increased competition for spots in the squad.
"Everyone battling for that jersey has just got to rip in at training and prove that they can do it," Best said.
"It's up to the younger boys, and obviously they're here for a reason. The coaches and all the staff have got belief in them and I've definitely got belief in the boys so it'll be exciting.
"We've just got to move forward and whoever comes and what we have here, the halves we have and all the young boys coming up through the ranks, it's a next man up mentality and I'm excited to see what we have and new combinations to build."
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