Mitch Barnett is pushing to hold his place in first grade in 2019.
Mitch Barnett is pushing to hold his place in first grade in 2019.

Guerra backs Knights’ forgotten man to fight for place

Mitch Barnett has gone from being Newcastle's player of the year in 2017 to being the forgotten man in the Knights pack.

Or so it seems.

The Knights have recruited so prolifically for the upcoming season, fitting 12 forwards with NRL experience into eight or nine positions will be the biggest headache.

The 24-year-old lock is just one player fighting to keep his spot in Nathan Brown's starting 17, with some predicting he would drop out of the side altogether.

However, star second-rower Aidan Guerra has leapt to Barnett's defence.

"I think they're probably a bit off there if they're not mentioning him in their 17," he told reporters on Thursday.

"I've played alongside him for a year and played against him for a couple of years before that and I think the value he can add to this side will do this club justice for some time to come."

Barnett and Guerra will both be competing for an edge position in the Knights' pack along with rising stars Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Sione Mata'utia and Sam Stone.

Both can also play lock - likewise new recruit David Klemmer and Herman Ese'ese.

It makes the upcoming trials leading into Round 1 all the more important.

"I don't think anything is set, I don't even think Browny has got his mind made up yet so I think that's what this next two month block and into the trial matches will iron out these decisions for Browny," Guerra said.

"There's a few of us going at it there for edges and middles and even the make up of who's going to be on the edge and who will be in the middle is still to be determined. We're competing every day for positions.

"I've always said to Browny that I prefer edge and I've said to every coach that I have had that I prefer edge, I know I'm capable to play both and I can value add to the side no matter where I am. I've played a lot in the middle in my career and a lot on the edge and I just try to do my best at both of them.

"We can't rest on having quality players in key positions, we've got to reach our potential or it'll all be a waste."