Daniel, left, and Jacob Saifiti.KNIGHTS twin towers Daniel and Jacob Saifiti were playing for The Entrance Tigers less than a year ago.
On Saturday, a day after celebrating their 19th birthday, the Saifiti brothers will represent Fiji against Papua New Guinea at Robina in the first leg of the Pacific Test double-header.
They have played National Youth Cup this year, will still be NYC-eligible in 2016, and the Knights are closing in on securing their services for another two years.
Newcastle coach Rick Stone has monitored their progress since they joined the club at the end of last year and had no hesitation including them in the Fijian pack to tackle the Kumuls.
Their Bati teammates will include Knights clubmate Korbin Sims and experienced NRL players Kevin Naiqama, Marika Koroibete, Apisai Koroisau and Jayson Bukuya.
Knights director of football Michael Hagan said the twins, who are studying to become primary school teachers, had worked hard on and off the field.
Hagan said the boys had struck up a close relationship with former Knights, Dragons and New Zealand Test prop Craig Smith, Newcastle’s NYC assistant coach.
‘‘They’re very athletic, they’ve got good motors, and they’re good characters,’’ Hagan said.
Their mother, Bev, is Fijian, but they were born in Newcastle and raised on the Central Coast.
Rather than rooming together in camp this week, Jacob is sharing with Wyong prop Eloni Vunakece and Daniel has been paired with Wentworthville centre Fabian Goodall.
‘‘At the start of the week, seeing all the NRL players was pretty surreal, but by the next day I got over it and once we started training I was right,’’ Daniel said.
‘‘I’m used to playing club footy against people my age in under-20s, so coming up against full-grown adults that have been in the NRL system for a while, it’s going to be tough, but I’m just going to have to handle it.’’
Daniel, a prop, tips the scales at 117 kilograms, and Jacob, who plays in the back row or front row, weighs 111kg.
They are both 193cm tall, and Jacob came off the bench in the Tigers’ 22-18 victory over Mounties in the Ron Massey Cup grand final last year.
‘‘I definitely wasn’t expecting it. We got told we might be in the squad, but when they said we’d be starting, it was a bit of a shock,’’ Jacob said.
‘‘The week’s been pretty chill. All the boys have been really friendly and heaps welcoming, especially the first-graders, because they’ve taken us young guys under their wings and shown us the way.
‘‘It’s still a bit surreal.
‘‘Making this team hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m sure it will by kick-off.’’
■ The Knights are close to finalising terms on a new deal with Kade Snowden.
The 28-year-old former NSW and Australian prop has been their retention priority since they acknowledged they would lose Beau Scott to Parramatta at the end of the season.
Snowden, in the final year of the four-year deal he signed when he returned from Cronulla in 2012, has no plans on leaving and starting again at a new club.
Knights coach Rick Stone is keen to keep the Belmont North Sharks junior as his pack leader.
The Knights are also making steady progress in negotiations with 20-year-old former Junior Kangaroos outside back Jake Mamo, who has been linked to the Dragons and Sea Eagles.
■ Knights prop David Fa’alogo declared himself unavailable to captain Samoa against Tonga in the second Pacific Test at Robina on Saturday so he could treat an ongoing knee injury.
In Fa’alogo’s absence, Joey Leilua, Pat Mata’utia and Carlos Tuimavave will fly the Knights flag in the Samoan squad.
■ There is a Knights connection in most of the rep teams running around this weekend.
The withdrawal of Jarrod Mullen has left four Knights, Aku Uate, James McManus, Kade Snowden and Tariq Sims, in the Country Origin team to play City at Wagga Wagga on Sunday, and Danny Buderus is on the Country coaching staff.
Former Knights prop Tony Butterfield is one of City coach Brad Fittler’s assistants.
Knights outside backs Chanel Mata’utia and Nathan Ross are members of the NSW Cup representative team to play Queensland Residents in Brisbane on Sunday.
That team will be coached by former Knights assistant and lower-grade coach Garth Brennan, who has won back-to-back premierships with Penrith’s NSW Cup and NYC teams in the past two seasons.
Justin Holbrook, a former halfback understudy to Knights Hall of Famer Andrew Johns, will coach the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis at Robina on Saturday.
■ The selection of rookie Sharks utility back Jack Bird at halfback for Country Origin shows just how far Knights playmaker Tyrone Roberts has slipped off the radar.
Roberts, who partnered Knights teammate Jarrod Mullen in the Country halves last season, has been below his best, and Barrett preferred to give the chance to Bird, who has played just five NRL games and none at halfback.