Newcastle recruit Mickey Paea is likely to have his first run on Australian shores in five years in a trial on Saturday against Parramatta.
The former Canterbury prop hasn’t played in the NRL since 2011 and has spent the past five years in the Super League, making almost 100 appearances.
But with their lone NRL trial coming against Canberra on February 20, new Knights coach Nathan Brown is set to give Paea some much-needed game time against the Eels in a reserve grade game this weekend.
Fellow front-rower Jack Stockwell, whose 2015 season ended when he tore his bicep in June, is also likely to play.
“There’ll be a fair number of them that will stay out, and probably some that need to play for different reasons,” Brown said.
“Obviously (Stockwell), he missed most of last year, and Mickey Paea’s just come back to the NRL. There’s some blokes that’ll need to play and then you’ve got other blokes who probably don’t need to play.”
Brown, making a NRL return of his own as a head coach, said he was impressed with all his youngsters at the Auckland Nines and labelled their quarter-final finish a “success”.
The Knights won two of their three group games before bowing out to eventual champions Parramatta by just four points.
“I thought our last performance was our best performance, even though we narrowly got beat by Parramatta, who were the eventual winners. And we were a touch unlucky at the death,” he said.
“The fact we did improve from game to game, the young kids got good experience playing against some good players and we got no injuries and made a bit of prize money as well.
“Overall for us, it was a successful tournament.”
Star recruit Trent Hodkinson, whose pre-season has been hampered by a wrist problem, is unlikely to get some match fitness against the Eels but is a chance of a hitout against the Raiders the following week.
“He’s been cleared to resume full training but he’s still got to pass a number of tests to be fit for the Orange game. I’d be surprised if he was fit and able to play this week 100 per cent,” Brown said.