AS Knights officials scramble to lock in their NRL roster for next season, one of the club’s outstanding prospects has slipped through their fingers to sign with Melbourne.
The Newcastle Herald can reveal today that under-20s utility back Kurt Mann signed a two-year deal with the Storm last week, despite a desperate last-ditch attempt from the Knights to retain him.
Mann, who Newcastle signed to a scholarship at 15, is rated a long-term first-grader in the making.
Last season he helped the Knights win the SG Ball (under-18) grand final, before graduating a week later to the National Youth Competition (under-20), in which he scored two tries on debut.
The 19-year-old originally from Longreach represented Queensland last month in the inaugural State of Origin under-20 clash with NSW.
Less than two weeks ago, Knights coach Wayne Bennett referred to a ‘‘bunch of kids’’ the club were grooming to come up through the ranks, including Korbin Sims, Will Smith, Robbie Rochow and Mann.
Now the young flyer, who is still eligible for under 20s next season, will have to realise his potential across the border.
‘‘The Knights put an offer in as well, but I’ve got a bit of family in Melbourne, some uncles and aunties, and it will be good to train and hopefully play with some of the best players in the game,’’ Mann said yesterday.
Equally at home in the halves, Mann has played exclusively as fullback this season and said he had no qualms about going to Melbourne, where the presence of superstars Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater could limit his opportunities.
‘‘It will be just good for me to learn from them, I reckon,’’ he said.
Mann said his goal was to leave Newcastle with an NYC premiership to his name.
‘‘That’s what I’ve told my coach [Mick Crawley],’’ he said.
‘‘I’m still really focused on winning a premiership.’’
It is understood several clubs were chasing Mann but Melbourne showed the most interest.
He possibly attracted their attention with a dynamic showing against the Storm under 20s at AAMI Park on March 30, when he scored a try and carried the ball a remarkable 248metres in Newcastle’s 36-16 win.