NEWCASTLE’S opening trial match of the 2013 pre-season proved to be a mismatch when Rick Stone’s makeshift NSW Cup squad were hammered 46-10 by Parramatta in Armidale on Saturday.
The Knights fielded a composite line-up of contracted reserve-graders and hopefuls from the Newcastle Rugby League competition, as well as one player with NRL experience, utility back Peter Mata’utia.
The Eels, under new coach Ricky Stuart, unleashed a host of first-grade players, headed by former international Renia Maitua.
In the circumstances, Stone felt his troops did not give a bad account of themselves.
‘‘I think Parra might have played 20 or their top 30 players and we probably played one, so there was plenty of difference in the quality of this sides,’’ Stone said yesterday.
‘‘We probably struggled a bit in the first half for power and speed, but the second half wasn’t too bad and we got in the groove a bit.
‘‘We played a bit of good footy and controlled the ball a bit better.’’
Stone said South Newcastle’s Ben Tupou and Maitland’s Brenton Horwood ‘‘stuck their hands up’’ and pushed their claims for further opportunities.
‘‘Those two both showed they’re up to playing at a higher level, that’s for sure,’’ Stone said.
‘‘Realistically, I might need a part-time squad of 20 to complement the guys who come back from the NRL.
‘‘It’s not unusual to go through 40-plus players during a NSW Cup season.’’
Mata’utia, playing for the first time since his 2012 season was written off by a fractured larynx, was also impressive.
‘‘Pete Mata’utia and his brother Chanel did a pretty good job as well,’’ Stone said.
‘‘Pete played half a game and did some good things for us. It was good to see him come back from that injury and play with confidence.’’
South Newcastle centre Lewis Schneider and Central Charlestown prop Bobby Nona scored Newcastle’s tries.
Luke Turner (Cessnock) was left nursing an ankle injury that will require scans.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett will roll out his top squad for trials against Souths in Coffs Harbour on February 16 and Cronulla in Tamworth a week later.
MISMATCH: The Knights take on Parramatta in Armidale on Saturday.