Newcastle Knights Training Session
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06: Adam O'Brien coach of the Newcastle Knights during a Newcastle Knights NRL training session at Newcastle on February 06, 2020 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

The Newcastle Knights will open their pre-season with a clash against the Canterbury Bulldogs on Monday evening, and it won't be Adam O'Brien behind the clipboard.

The head coach of the Knights, who has had plenty of difficult questions to answer this pre-season - the biggest of them being how to replace the departed Mitchell Pearce - will hand coaching duties to Rory Kostjasyn on Monday evening.

The assistant coach taking over is being used by the Knights as a way to prepare for what will be a COVID-impacted season, according to a report in The Newcastle Herald.

Every club in the competition has been impacted by COVID in one way or another during the pre-season, with some forced to cancel training camps or club operations for days at a time, while more than 80 per cent of the competition's players have been forced to isolate for at least seven days after contracting the virus.

While much has been made of teams various problems in replacing players with COVID, nothing has yet been talked about in regards to coaching, but the Knights aren't taking any chances.

Kostjasyn, who played 128 games between 2010 and 2016 in the NRL for the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys, has coached the Knights reserve grade side since 2018 and is now part of O'Brien's assistant staff in the top grade in the Hunter.

It means he will take the head coaches role for the first trial, with the Knights pulling out all the preparation stops.

The likes of Kalyn Ponga, Dane Gagai, Bradman Best, Jake Clifford, David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti and Tyson Frizell will all play in the Knights opening trial, with the side coming against a Bulldogs side also having named many of their recruits in what will be an important first hit out for both sides who are predicted to be around the edge of the eight and pushing for a finals spot.