Knights coach Nathan Brown wants fans to remain patient over Kalyn Ponga's switch to five-eighth after his performance in the Harvey Norman All-Stars clash generated mixed reviews.
Ponga struggled in the clash despite a glowing endorsement post-game from Channel Nine commentator Andrew Johns, who declared the 20-year-old would win the 2019 Dally M Medal.
Ponga made a return to the field on the weekend following end-of-season ankle surgery and Brown was quick to defend his performance in the game ahead of Newcastle's first trial against St George Illawarra in Kogarah on Saturday.
"I think just give it a little bit of time," Brown said.
"I would argue the people he played with the other day had never played with him and don't know how he plays. He played in the halves with another five-eighth/fullback (Jahrome Hughes) rather than a halfback.
"He played lock for Queensland last year, and not me but all the experts were saying it was the greatest Origin debut ever. He played five-eighth against Penrith, who finished the year high on the ladder with one foot and he played good.
"You can't go on those type of games, just give it a little bit of time and over time it will run its course.
"The reality is as I've said before, people aren't wrong – he's great at fullback. People aren't wrong – he's going to be good at five-eighth as well. He just stands in a different position. He's not going to play any different."
The Knights are expected to unveil a near full-strength squad for Saturday night's trial with Ponga, Connor Watson, Mitchell Pearce and Danny Levi likely set to make up the spine.
"The key is the style of footy they play," Brown said. "Some of things we worked on last year they'll continue to grow.
"Those combinations won't take long regardless of Kalyn playing at six. There's plenty of fullbacks playing five-eighth because the positions are fairly similar. The big change is the different type of defensive rate."
Of greater concern for the Knights coach is the left centre position with Hymel Hunt injuring his hamstring at training.
With Tautau Moga still on the comeback from an ACL injury, Hunt has impressed in the spot since arriving from South Sydney but is now in doubt for round one.
"He's putting every foot forward for that left centre spot," Brown said.
"He's been training well but he's had a little bit of a setback. He won't be fit for this week, [and won't play] if he's not 100% for next week."
Brown said the Dragons would field a competitive squad in return, while confirming he had pencilled in a line-up for the opening clash of the season against Cronulla on March 15.
Newcastle's big-name recruits David Klemmer, Tim Glasby, James Gavet and Jesse Ramien are all expected to start in the first round, leaving spots limited.
"In the forwards we've got far more depth and a lot of guys playing in the past will have to play well to get a [round one] spot," Brown said.
"There's some blokes that need to show some good signs. Like most of it we've got a reasonable idea."