They've claimed consecutive wooden spoons and lost a whopping 887 games of NRL experience but Newcastle returned to training this week full of hope.

Fuelled by fresh faces like Jamie Buhrer and Rory Kostjasyn, the Knights are tackling the pre-season with renewed vigour.

They continued their recruitment drive on Friday with the signing of Josh Starling on a one-year deal.

Starling, who has played 67 first-grade games at Manly and South Sydney, will add invaluable depth to the forwards as the Knights look to avoid a third consecutive wooden spoon.


Knights international Sione Mata'utia told The Daily Telegraph the arrival of these experienced campaigners had placed the entire squad on edge to perform.

Mata'utia said the Knights' young guns could no longer rely on being known as players of potential and had to show they belonged in first grade.

"Everyone feels like they've got to step up the ante," Mata'utia said.

"I think the coaches are definitely going to be stricter and there won't be as much leniency this time around.

"We had plenty of players (11) debut last season but now they've got that behind them they have to show they deserve to be in the top grade.

"With a few new players coming in, there will definitely be positions up for grabs.

"But all the boys have always been motivated.

"We've seen the future goal, we want to get to that spot and I think it showed on day one of pre-season.

"The whole squad came back fitter than last year and that's definitely a good sign to move forward on."

Starling is looking for consistent game time in the top grade. "It has all happened quickly but it is great to join the Knights," Starling said.

"There is a lot of hard work ahead. There are no guarantees, so I have to train hard and earn my spot. There is a lot of young talent at the club and that is exciting to be a part of."

Knights coach Nathan Brown described Starling as "a good competitor, a great trainer who does a lot of wonderful work in the community".

"These are all qualities on and off the field that are important to have around our young squad."