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Mitchell Pearce and Jayden Brailey will combine for the first time in Newcastle's trial against St George Illawarra in Maitland on Saturday.

The crucial halfback-hooker pairing have been included in a squad of 34, all of whom are expected to see time in the four-quarter match.

Meanwhile, the injury-affected Dragons have still named a strong 27-player unit featuring Tyson Frizell, Ben Hunt, Zac Lomax, Paul Vaughan, James Graham, Tariq Sims and Corey Norman.

The trial is coincidental timing for star back-rower Frizell, who is weighing up a lucrative contract offer from the Knights against an extension at his current club.

Having been surprise packets at the NRL Nines, the challenge now for the clubs is to translate that form to the 13-a-side game.

St George Illawarra advanced to the Nines final and Newcastle made the quarter-finals in a nice boost leading into the season.

The teams have undergone big changes in an attempt to rectify last year's disappointments. Newcastle have a new head coach in Adam O'Brien, while St George Illawarra appointed Shane Flanagan and James Shepherd as accomplished assistants to Paul McGregor.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Knights is number 1 Tex Hoy
    Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Zac Lomax
  • Winger for Knights is number 2 Hymel Hunt
    Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan Pereira
  • Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari Tuala
    Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Knights is number 4 Gehamat Shibasaki
    Centre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
  • Winger for Knights is number 5 Edrick Lee
    Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
  • Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kurt Mann
    Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
  • Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
    Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt

Forwards

  • Prop for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
    Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
  • Hooker for Knights is number 9 Jayden Brailey
    Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Joe Lovodua
  • Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
    Prop for Dragons is number 14 Jackson Ford
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Sione Mata'utia
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
  • Lock for Knights is number 13 Mitchell Barnett
    Lock for Dragons is number 13 Blake Lawrie

Interchange

  • Interchange for Knights is number 14 Matt Soper-Lawler
    Interchange for Dragons is number 0 Player 14
  • Interchange for Knights is number 15 Nathanael Sasagi
    Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Jacob Host
  • Interchange for Knights is number 16 Jirah Momoisea
    Interchange for Dragons is number 21 Tristan Sailor
  • Interchange for Knights is number 17 Brodie Jones
    Interchange for Dragons is number 24 Brayden Wiliame

Reserves

  • Reserve for Knights is number 18 Matt Croker
    Reserve for Dragons is number 25 Jason Saab
  • Reserve for Knights is number 19 Luke Huth
    Reserve for Dragons is number 26 Billy Brittain
  • Reserve for Knights is number 20 Jack Cameron
    Reserve for Dragons is number 27 Adam Clune
  • Reserve for Knights is number 21 Brandon Russell
    Reserve for Dragons is number 28 Eddie Blacker
  • Reserve for Knights is number 22 Bayden Searle
    Reserve for Dragons is number 29 Tyran Wishart
  • Reserve for Knights is number 23 Dylan Lucas
    Reserve for Dragons is number 30 Hayden Lomax

Match Officials

  • Referee: Matt Cecchin
  • Referee: Jon Stone
  • Touch Judge: Mark Bohan
  • Touch Judge: Benjamin Teague

Last updated:

The Rundown

Squads

Newcastle Knights: Tex Hoy, Hymel Hunt, Enari Tuala, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Gehamat Shibasaki, Edrick Lee, Matt Soper-Lawler, Starford Toa, Mason Lino, Kurt Mann, Mitchell Pearce, Simi Sasagi, Bayden Searle, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Aidan Guerra, Brodie Jones, Sione Mata’utia, Jirah Momoisea, Jayden Brailey, Luke Huth, Chris Randall, Mitch Barnett, Jack Cameron, Mathew Croker, Tim Glasby, Zac Hosking, David Klemmer, Brandon Russell, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Josh King, Matt Cooper, Dylan Lucas, Mitch Black

St George Illawarra Dragons: Euan Aitken, Eddie Blacker, Adam Clune, Mathew Feagai, Max Feagai, Jackson Ford, Tyson Frizell, Luke Gale, James Graham, Ben Hunt, Jacob Host, Tim Lafai, Blake Lawrie, Hayden Lomax, Zac Lomax, Joe Lovodua, Corey Norman, Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa, Jason Saab, Tristan Sailor, Shaun Sauni-Esau, Tariq Sims, Jayden Sullivan, Paul Vaughan, Brayden Wiliame, Tyran Wishart

Casualty ward

Newcastle Knights: Promising five-eighth Phoenix Crossland has a groin complaint. Teenage centre sensation Bradman Best suffered a fractured ankle and requires surgery. Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson and Pasami Saulo are on All Stars duty.

St George Illawarra Dragons: Korbin Sims (arm), Matt Dufty (fractured cheekbone) and captain Cameron McInnes (MCL) all went down at the Nines. Prop Blake Lawrie withdrew from the Nines with a minor knee complaint. Josh Kerr, Tyrell Fuimaono and Issac Luke are on All Stars duty. Trent Merrin and Nines hero Cody Ramsey are being rested.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Knights is number 1 Tex Hoy
    Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Zac Lomax
  • Winger for Knights is number 2 Hymel Hunt
    Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan Pereira
  • Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari Tuala
    Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Knights is number 4 Gehamat Shibasaki
    Centre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
  • Winger for Knights is number 5 Edrick Lee
    Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
  • Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kurt Mann
    Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
  • Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
    Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt

Forwards

  • Prop for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
    Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
  • Hooker for Knights is number 9 Jayden Brailey
    Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Joe Lovodua
  • Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
    Prop for Dragons is number 14 Jackson Ford
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Sione Mata'utia
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
  • Lock for Knights is number 13 Mitchell Barnett
    Lock for Dragons is number 13 Blake Lawrie

Interchange

  • Interchange for Knights is number 14 Matt Soper-Lawler
    Interchange for Dragons is number 0 Player 14
  • Interchange for Knights is number 15 Nathanael Sasagi
    Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Jacob Host
  • Interchange for Knights is number 16 Jirah Momoisea
    Interchange for Dragons is number 21 Tristan Sailor
  • Interchange for Knights is number 17 Brodie Jones
    Interchange for Dragons is number 24 Brayden Wiliame

Reserves

  • Reserve for Knights is number 18 Matt Croker
    Reserve for Dragons is number 25 Jason Saab
  • Reserve for Knights is number 19 Luke Huth
    Reserve for Dragons is number 26 Billy Brittain
  • Reserve for Knights is number 20 Jack Cameron
    Reserve for Dragons is number 27 Adam Clune
  • Reserve for Knights is number 21 Brandon Russell
    Reserve for Dragons is number 28 Eddie Blacker
  • Reserve for Knights is number 22 Bayden Searle
    Reserve for Dragons is number 29 Tyran Wishart
  • Reserve for Knights is number 23 Dylan Lucas
    Reserve for Dragons is number 30 Hayden Lomax

Match Officials

  • Referee: Matt Cecchin
  • Referee: Jon Stone
  • Touch Judge: Mark Bohan
  • Touch Judge: Benjamin Teague

Last updated:

The big question

Newcastle Knights: Who will partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves? Crossland had been touted as the new five-eighth but with the young gun sidelined, the race is wide open. The experienced and versatile Kurt Mann was recently said to be the leading contender for the No.6, but that was before incumbent pivot Mason Lino sent a reminder of his class at the Nines by earning Team of the Tournament selection. Tex Hoy is another option.

St George Illawarra Dragons: Can they back up their talk? The Dragons have insisted that things are different this year: Flanagan's arrival has added starch in defence, their attacking systems have been overhauled and new skipper McInnes has implemented a "no excuses" edict. It sounds great and the signs at the Nines were positive, but the true tests are around the corner.