The now annual Newcastle Knights trial at Maitland Sportsground has become an integral part of the club's preparations for the coming season.
Steeped in Knights folk lore and culture, back-rower Sione Mata'utia says while the match is important the 90 minutes with fans after the game is a reminder for the rawest recruit to seasoned veterans of what the Knights mean to the Hunter.
"It's one of the best things to look forward to. As soon as the hooter sounds you just see a sea of kids running out towards you. You don't make it back into the sheds until and hour-and-a-half after the game," Mata'utia said.
"It's fun, that's something we look forward to. We're investing in the kids of Newcastle and the Hunter so hopefully they will want to come and play for the club in the future."
Mata'utia is the longest serving current Newcastle Knight and a Hunter product - and the desire to be part of finals action burns within him.
"Every player plays to try and get to a grand final and win one.
"I've been here 100 or so games over seven years and last year was the closest I had been to a finals appearance.
"That one really hurt last year. The game against the Tigers (two point loss at home in round 19) was the nail in the coffin, it hurt so much.
"But after so many lean years it was a good experience to be in contention for the finals that late in the season. I had never had that experience and I've learned a lot from it.
"Hopefully we can go a step further this year and make the finals and give it a good crack.
"I might need a box of tissues before the game when we finally make it. It would just be unreal, especially if we could get a home semi."
Mata'utia debuted in the same game with his brother Chanel in 2014 and also played alongside his brothers Peter and Pat at Newcastle.
"My brother Pat is out at Maitland this year and loving it. He is loving the lifestyle and they've got a good roster and hopefully they will have a really good season," he said.
"I'm a true bred Novocastrian, I've played out at the Terrace, at Souths, at Kotara. I've played all over the shop as a junior. I just consider myself a local wherever I am around Newcastle and the Hunter."
"My first pre-season was in 2013 and 2014 I made my debut.
"The club has been through a lot in those seven years, a few coaches, a lot of players have come and gone. I have been pretty fortunate to hang around and ultimately play at the club I want to stay at for as long as I can.
"It is really hard to stay at one club, especially the club you want to, for your whole career and that's a goal I want to achieve.
"To be here so far has been a great privilege and I'm looking to stay for a lot longer.
"I suppose the skill I bring is that I can play a few different positions, but Adz (coach Adam O'Brien) has given me the opportunity to play one position this pre-season which I haven't done for a while so it's been good to be able to focus on the one position."
But ever the team main, Mata'utia quickly adds he is more than willing to play in whatever role the coach thinks is best for the team.
"Just spending a bit more time in the back-row has helped this pre-season, but being able to play different positions helps the team. The team comes first and foremost," he said.
Mata'utia said the first week of pre-season training under O'Brien had been one of the hardest he and his teammates had experienced.
"It's been really intense, a lot of the boys will tell you that the first four days were the hardest we've done for a while. It really shocked the system.
"In terms of difference, I guess Adzy brings a lot of focus of perfection in the little things, getting them right especially on the the defensive side of our game.
"It's set a benchmark for our team to strive towards.
"Obviously spending 12 years or so down at Melbourne and then a year at the Roosters I think he has really moulded the two environments and put his twist on it to bring to the Knights.
"We are pretty fortunate as some of the players haven't experienced finals and Adzy has been there a lot.
"We're just a sponge at the moment, soaking everything in and giving it our best shot to try to produce what he is trying to coach.
"We've got the coach with the right resume at the moment, so it's pretty good."