AFTER back-to-back grand final losses, Kiama Knights coach Matt Clarke is determined to go one step further in the 2019 Group Seven season.
In his first year at the helm, taking over from Matt O'Brien following the 2017 grand final loss to Jamberoo, Clarke said he experienced many challenges - all which should help his team moving forward.
"The biggest challenge we faced as a team last year was backing it up, after reaching the grand final the year before," Clarke said.
"The boys were unlucky in the grand final and there was sort of that expectation that we would be there abouts the following year.
"To the boys' credit, they rose to the challenge and reached another grand final - it's just a shame it ended in the same outcome for the club."
Renowned as one of the competition's quicker teams on the park, Clarke explained the club wanted to add some versatile size to their pack for the 2019 season.
"We identified that we needed a bigger forward pack, to compete week in, week out with the size in this competition," Clarke said.
"As such, we have added forwards Luke Chalker and Tom Angel, who have both been in NRL under 20s set-ups the past couple of seasons.
"That experience of being in that system and playing at the highest level is invaluable.
"We're very happy to add them two to the likes of Luke Sutton, James Brown and Toby Nobes, who were a great core last year - they'll both add plenty of power to the forward pack."
The third major signing to the squad is the return of Dylan Morris, whose commitments with the Illawarra Steelers the past two years has limited his game time with his junior club.
"Fast players like Dylan [Morris] and Tommy Atkins will benefit from our bigger forward pack too," Clarke said.
"If we can lay the foundations in the middle of the park, we know we have the outside men that can cause some damage - it's pretty exciting."
Despite these positives, Clarke said his team, which have lost the services of Cam Whittaker, Cam Cornell, Brent Wake and Brad Scott, weren't feeling any pressure in attempting to win the club's first premiership in the top grade since 1985.
"We are happy of where we are at and all the boys seem to relish any pressure put on us from outside the club," Clarke said.
"All of us know we have the squad that can go one step further, it's just up to us to work hard and prove that - especially considering how disappointed we were in the sheds after last year's grand final.
"As most of the players are local juniors, it would mean the world to everyone here to bring home that premiership."
In preparation of their opening round clash with local rival Jamberoo, the Knights have lined up a trial in the coming weeks with Tumut from Group Nine.