Manly coach Trent Barrett has turned up the heat on Newcastle ahead of their NRL season-opening clash, declaring the new-look Knights are under pressure to deliver on the hype.
A packed McDonald Jones Stadium crowd is expected to greet the Sea Eagles on Friday, when big-name Knights recruits Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga make their anticipated club debuts.
The duo are among nine new faces named by coach Nathan Brown, who is expected to turn the Knights from wooden-spoon holders into top-eight contenders this year.
Barrett had targeted Pearce to replace veteran Blake Green at five-eighth at the beginning of the summer, however the former Sydney Roosters No.7 opted to join the rebuild in the Hunter.
"They've got a few more other threats than just Mitchell Pearce as well. They've got a really good side. Everyone's expecting big things from them," Barrett said on Thursday.
"It's been a long pre-season and for us to draw Newcastle on a Friday night at Newcastle is going to be a pretty special night for everyone.
"No doubt they'll be pretty revved up given their off-season. They've signed a lot of players and they'll have a big crowd there."
Pearce and Ponga were joined by Connor Watson, Chris Heighington, Slade Griffin, Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman in receiving their jerseys from club great Danny Buderus on Thursday.
Former Brisbane pair Tautau Moga and Herman Ese'ese are also new to the club.
"We had 'Bedsy' come in before and hand jerseys out to the club debutants which always gives me nerves when the older boys come in and have those chats," forward Mitch Barnett said.
"We've got a lot more expectation on us this year, which gives me a lot of excitement. I've heard there's a big turnout of fans which we need to repay them by some good results.
"If we can go out there and just deliver what we've set out to do, I'm sure the results will follow."
In contrast, Barrett has welcomed his team being widely tipped to miss the finals this year despite making the top eight last season.
Youngster Lachlan Croker will wear the No.6 jersey following his move from Canberra.
"Last year everyone wrote us off as well so that sits well with us. It certainly doesn't worry us. We go to Newcastle with all the expectation and pressure on them," Barrett said.
"That's how we like it. We know what's expected. I certainly know what I've got in that dressing shed. We'll be fine."
STATS THAT MATTER
* Newcastle are aiming to avoid losing their eighth straight to Manly, which would be just the fifth time they have lost that many consecutive games against a rival club.
* Thirteen of the past 15 clashes have been decided by 14 points or more.
* Manly have lost eight of their past 10 round-one clashes.
Australian Associated Press