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Newcastle Knights: Mitch Barnett locked in at No.13 for trial against former Canberra Raiders teamphotos

Newcastle Knights forward Mitch Barnett will return to familiar surroundings in more ways than one in Canberra this weekend.

The 22-year-old shiftsfrom second-row back to his junior position of lock when he lines up againsthis former Raiders team in Saturday’s pre-season trial.

And after adding five kilograms to his frame over summer the Wingham product hasset himself the challenge of making the No.13 jersey his own for 2017.

Barnett bulks up for tests back in middle TweetFacebook Mitch BarnettPictures from Fairax Digital Collection“I’ve been doing a fair bit of work there [at lock] with Browny[coach Nathan Brown] in pre-season, but it’s a familiar position forme,” Barnett said.

“I played there through juniors and 20s so I’mlooking forward to getting out there this weekend and playing that role. It meansI have my hands on the ball a bit more and get through a bit more defence.

“I’m excited for the challenge ahead and hopefully Ican lock down that 13 spot.”

The added incentive for Barnett to start on the front foot centres around contract negotiations for 2018 and beyond after joining the Knights midway through last season on a deal that runs until the end of this year.

“I haven’t really discussed anything yet, but I think my manager is talking with the Knights now,” he said.

“The thing is I’mhappy here and theclub has treated me really well.My home town Wingham is only a couple of hours up the highway, so I get to see my parents and the rest of myfamily.

“It [Newcastle] is somewhere I’d like to stay long term, whether the club want me to or not is up to them, but it’s somewhere I can see myself settling down.”

Collectively the 2015 NSW Cup player of the year said the Knights were shaping up strongly, with experienced recruits helping bolster the relatively young existing forward pack.

“We’ve got a pretty good balance this year,” Barnett said.“I’m excited to see what we can alldo out there to be honest and hopefullywe can have a really good season.”

In the backline 28-year-old winger Nathan Ross, who will be marking last season’s top NRL try scorer Jordan Rapana atQueanbeyan’s Seiffert Oval, has given himself written motivation on his wrist strapping to keep going.

“I’ve never actually playedround one in the NRL and I want to do that,” Rosssaid.

KNIGHTS:1Dylan Phythian,2Ken Sio, 3Dane Gagai, 4Peter Mata’utia, 5Nathan Ross, 6Brock Lamb, 7Trent Hodkinson, 8Daniel Saifiti, 9Danny Levi, 10Josh Starling, 11Sione Mata’utia, 12Jamie Buhrer, 13Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14Luke Yates, 15Jack Stockwell, 16Sam Stone, 17Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 18Brendan Elliot, 19Will Pearsall, 22Josh King, 23Jacob Saifiti, 24Chanel Mata’utia.

Kick-off is 6.30pm.

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The Knights lower grades are also in action down souththis weekend.

Newcastle play Raiders feeder club Mounties at Cabramatta on Sunday (6pm), with first grade regulars Mickey Paea and Sam Mataora in the squad, while the under 20s meet their Canberra counterparts at the same venue (4pm)with Jack Johns, son of former premiership winner Matt, named at five-eighth.

NSW CUP:1Nick Meaney,2Kainoa Gudgeon,3Cory Denniss, 4Tom Hughes, 5Jacob Gagan, 6Jake McNamara,7Jack Cogger,8Sam Mataora, 9Joey Morris,10Mickey Paea,11Pat Mata’utia,12Braden Robson,13Jamayne Taunoa-Brown,14David Bhana,15Jake Finn,16Tyrone Amey,17Faitotoa Faitotoa,18Sam Bernstrom,19Jarrod Flanagan.

UNDER 20s: 1Matt Cooper,2Mitch Andrews,3Heath Gibbs,4Brayden Musgrove,5Lachlan Farr,6Jack Johns,7Hayden Loughrey,8Jayden Butterfield,9Tom Starling,10Viko Puliuvea,11Sam McIntyre,12Henry Penn,13Zac Hosking,14Brendan O’Hagan,15Nash Birch,16Eddy Tuilotolava,17Cameron King,18Tavita Fesolai,19Dylan Clark,20Keanu Dawson,21Pasami Saulo,22Kurtis Dark,23Dean Kouka-Smith,24Will Davies.

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