St George Illawarra enforcer Tariq Sims says he owes the Newcastle Knights a debt of gratitude.

TARIQ Sims says he will always fondly remember his stint at the Newcastle Knights, declaring that the adversity he encountered made him a better player.

Sims will line up against his former Newcastle teammates for the first time on Sunday when St George Illawarra host the Knights at Kogarah Oval.

The rugged back-rower joined the Knights from North Queensland at the start of 2015, playing in 27 games before seeking a mid-season release last year to sign with the Dragons.

In that time, he won only four games in the red and blue and was part of two wooden spoon teams. Yet he insists he “cherished” his 18-month stint, in particular the honour of being named as one of Newcastle’s 2016 co-captains.

“It obviously boosts your confidence when you join a side that is winning regularly, but on the other hand, I learned a lot of lessons at the Knights, a lot of hard lessons that I don’t take for granted,’’ Sims told the Newcastle Herald.

“When times are tough, I look back at those days when we were battling and copping it from every angle.

“It definitely has made me a better player. I’m stronger mentally to handle certain situations on the field.

“So here at the Dragons, when we’re on the front foot and on top of teams, I can look back at the tough times I’ve been through and use that as motivation.’’

Sims said he did not want to dwell on the circumstances leading to his departure from the Knights, other than saying the Dragons offered him an opportunity “too good to knock back”.

Within six months of his exit, his brother Korbin also sought a release to join the Broncos.

“I’ve got nothing bad to say about the Knights,’’ he said. “It’s a great club with a very rich history and I’m very proud to have represented the Newcastle Knights and captained the club.

“My time there was short but I’ll always look back on it as a happy time for myself and my family.”

Sims said he was satisfied he gave 100 per cent for the Knights until the end. In his final four games before leaving, he averaged 109 metres in attack and 32 tackles.

“I was very happy with my game at the Knights,’’ he said.

“I was making the most tackles I’d ever made and the most metres in each game, but it was obviously a bit tougher because we were struggling to get forward.

“Comparing this year to last year, it’s pretty hard to do.

“The pack down here, we know our roles. We know what’s needed and when it’s needed.

“At the Knights, we were rebuilding and starting again.”

He said there was “always a bit of extra meaning” about playing against a former team.