Joel Edwards talks new deal with Knights

THE Knights are closing in on re-signing hard-hitting prop Joel Edwards for three more years.

The 24-year-old Cessnock junior, who was born the year the Knights joined the premiership, is off contract at the end of the season.

His priority has always been to stay at the Knights, and the club made him an initial offer late last year, but Edwards has allowed his manager, Darryl Mather, to handle contract negotiations while he concentrates on nailing down a spot in Wayne Bennett’s top squad.

‘‘Nothing’s finalised yet but we’re on the way,’’ Knights recruitment manager Peter Mulholland said yesterday.

‘‘We’re talking to his manager and we’ll hopefully finalise it in the next couple of weeks.’’

Mather did not return a call from the Newcastle Herald and Edwards said: ‘‘I’m just leaving all that to my manager.’’

The no-nonsense forward broke into first grade under Rick Stone in 2010, playing four matches, then he became a regular member of the squad, playing 22 of a possible 25 games last year.

Edwards has played in all seven matches under Bennett this year, starting at lock against the Eels on April 8 and coming off the bench in the other six, and has been named on the bench for the game against the Panthers at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.

Mulholland denied speculation that the Knights were one of several clubs in the hunt for Melbourne Storm back-rower Sika Manu, who remains unsigned beyond this season.

‘‘No, not us,’’ he said.

‘‘I was with his manager [Chris Orr] an hour ago to talk about young [Knights under-20s utility back] Will Smith and trying to re-sign him.’’

The Knights were linked to Manu in 2007, the year he made his NRL debut for the Storm, and he has since developed into a Kiwi Test regular and one of the most damaging runners in the game.

Orr said last month that Manu was keen to test his value on the transfer market, though the Storm have made retaining him a priority.

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