Newcastle's star signing David Klemmer says he feels like a rookie again and has been forced to go back to square one since his move up the M1.
Klemmer reported to Knights pre-season training underweight as the NSW prop opens the next chapter in his career following his exit from Canterbury in late November.
The 25-year-old is one of a host of new faces at Newcastle this off-season along with the likes of Tim Glasby, Edrick Lee, Jesse Ramien and Kurt Mann.
Not since signing his first professional contract with the Bulldogs as a teenager has Klemmer been in that position and said he felt like he'd had to start fresh since arriving in the Hunter.
"I've been here for three or four weeks now, it's been pretty tough," Klemmer said.
"It feels like I've started first grade again.
"My body feels good as well. I always try to be (in good shape) when I come back. As a professional athlete, that's what you've got to do, it's what we get paid to do.
"My weight was probably a bit down because I hadn't been lifting much weights over my break. I'm up there now and getting stronger and I feel good."
After a five-year finals drought - which included three wooden spoons - the Knights are widely expected to be in September contention this year.
With a pack bolstered by the recruitment of State of Origin representatives Klemmer and Glasby, and a reinvigorated spine following Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson's positional swap, they look like a team capable of capitalising on years of painstaking rebuilding.
They will get a gauge of how far they have come when they meet St George Illawarra and Cronulla in pre-season trials over the next seven weeks.
"Both of those teams played semi-final football last year and they've got talent across the park," Klemmer said.
"It'll be a good test for us as a squad, get combinations working, all the young blokes pushing for spots as well and see how they go."