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Fitzgibbon puts his hand up

CONTENDER: Lachlan Fitzgibbon impressed Knights coach Nathan Brown in the trial against Canberra last weekend.LACHLAN Fitzgibbon feelsready to seize any opportunity he is offered as Knights coach Nathan Brown ponders including the home-grown rookie for next week’s season-opener against Gold Coast at CBus Stadium.
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The 22-year-old South Newcastle junior was considered a fringe candidate for first grade this year, after making his NRL debut last season, a 16-minute stint off the bench in the round-21 loss to St George Illawarra.

But the sudden departure of Joseph Tapine, combined with Fitzgibbon’s storming display in last week’s 34-28 trial loss to Canberra, has fast-tracked his selection hopes.

The 104-kilogram, 192-centimetre utility forward capped 40 impressive minutes against the Raiders with a try.

Along with 19-year-old twin towers Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Fitzgibbon’s form has given Brown plenty to consider before he names his round-one team.

“There were some guys on the weekend that really did themselves some favours, and some guys that probably didn’t do themselves justice,’’ Brown told theNewcastle Herald.

“All three of thoseboys were outstanding on the weekend.

“They’re certainly putting their hands up . . . those three boys certainly did themselves no harm, the way they performed.’’

Fitzgibbon was confident he could do the job if Brown needed him.

“I believe I’m ready,’’ he said.

“We had a pretty strong year in the NSW Cup last year, winning the grand final, and I think playing NSW Cup gives you all the confidence you need to play in the NRL.

“I’m 22 now and that’s the age where a lot of young players come onto the NRL scene.

“I don’t think I’m too young and if I get opportunity in round one, I reckon I’ll be ready.’’

Fitzgibbon said he had mixed emotions about Newcastle’s decision to release Tapine to the Raiders.

The pair had been teammates for two years in Newcastle’s under-20s and reserve grade.

“I’m one of Joey’s good mates, and even though it was sad to see him leave, it’s probably opened up an opportunity for me now,’’ he said.“I wish Joey all the best down in Canberra, and I’m sure he’ll do well.It’s an unfortunate situation but I guess it’s a lucky break for me.’’

The son of NIB chief executive and Knights board member Mark Fitzgibbon, Lachlan said he had soon moved on from any disappointment aboutbeing omitted from Newcastle’s Auckland Nines squad earlier this month, when Brown rushed in new signing Pauli Pauli.

“People come into the side to make it stronger, and whoever they can bring in to make this side stronger is a good thing,’’ he said.

Meanwhile the Knights will name their 2016 skipperat a season launch on Friday. Star recruit Trent Hodkinson is the favourite, although the presence of Tariq Sims at Thursday’s NRL launch suggests he is also in contention.

Brown said this week he was still weighing up the merits of co-captaincy.

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