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Scott Bailey

Cogger 'a new player' in race for Knights' No.6 spot

Jack Cogger runs the ball during Newcastle's pre-season trial match against Cronulla. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Jack Cogger has declared he is a different player to the one that left Newcastle five-and-a-half years ago, as he fights to claim the Knights' No.6 jersey for round one.

Cogger and incumbent Tyson Gamble have one last chance to make their case against Melbourne in Fiji on Saturday.

Coach Adam O'Brien remains undecided on which of the two will partner halfback Jackson Hastings against Canberra in round one, with the bench an option for the other.

Cogger performed marginally better in Saturday's trial win over Cronulla, but Gamble has the inside running after helping Newcastle to last year's finals.

Jack Cogger scores a try for Newcastle against Cronulla.
Cogger scores a try for the Knights in their 44-18 trial-match win over the Sharks. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Signed from Penrith over the off-season, Cogger has history with the Knights during more difficult times at the club.

He debuted at Newcastle as an 18-year-old in 2016, but had to make nine NRL appearances to taste victory for the first time, in April 2018.

The playmaker left the Knights at the end of that season, with a 3-17 record at the club.

He spent time at a struggling Canterbury and in England before playing a key role in Penrith's grand final win last year, replacing Jarome Luai late in the showpiece at Sydney's Accor Stadium.

"I'm not looking at it like I'm coming to prove a point or anything like that, but it would be nice to re-write some history from the last time I was here," Cogger said.

"If you look at any player over the past five years, if they're still in the NRL they're a better player than what they were - and that's the same with me.

"If you don't get better as a player, you end up out the back door pretty quick.

"Hopefully my best footy is in front of me."

Cogger knows he has walked into a much-changed Newcastle.

The Knights won one game in 2016 and were last again in 2017, before an 11th-placed finish in 2018 marked Cogger's high point at the club.

But now he sees a club that has far more in common with three-time defending premiers Penrith.

"When I was at Newcastle five or six years ago, there was a big gap. It was like I was playing a different sport when I got to Penrith," Cogger said.

"Our training standards and things like that back then weren't up to scratch, and that's why we were where we were on the ladder.

"But when I came back I could tell the boys were pretty motivated on the back of last year (and) how Newcastle finished.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat.

"There are similarities (to the Panthers), but at the same time we do things a little bit differently and that suits the players we have."

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