Knights sounding out Raiders swap

THE Knights and Canberra Raiders have discussed the prospect of trading internationals Wes Naiqama and Bronson Harrison, possibly before the June 30 transfer deadline.

Naiqama, the Fijian Test captain, and Harrison, the former New Zealand Test back-rower, are in the first years of new three-year contracts they signed last season but the Newcastle Herald has been told their respective clubs are trying to shop them around.

When asked yesterday whether the Raiders had considered the swap deal, Canberra chief executive Don Furner told the Herald: ‘‘It has been discussed but nothing concrete.’’

Speaking last night to the Canberra Times, Furner said: ‘‘Nothing’s happened. I’ll be surprised if something happened. Things are being discussed all the time.

‘‘It’s no secret that they [Newcastle] are giving permission to a few people to look around.

‘‘We’re short of outside backs and lots of different outside backs have come across our desk recently and we’re looking at all sorts of different scenarios.’’

Media speculation this week has linked another out of favour Knights centre, Junior Sa’u, to Canberra and Cronulla. But sources told the Herald a mid-season switch for Sa’u was unlikely.

The Knights’ policy is to not comment on player recruitment or retention.

Harrison, a member of the premiership-winning Wests Tigers team in 2005, has played 13 Tests for the Kiwis since his debut that year, but Raiders insiders have told the Herald his form has fallen away this year.

He was a regular starter since joining the Raiders at the end of 2008, but was dropped to the bench last month and played 34 minutes as an interchange player in Canberra’s 32-16 upset of the Knights at Hunter Stadium two weeks ago.

The Knights will lose former Kiwi Test back-rower Zeb Taia to France-based Super League club Catalans Dragons at the end of the year.

Negotiations with lock Joel Edwards are on hold.

Of their other off-contract forwards, props Richie Fa’aoso and Evarn Tuimavave have been told they will not be re-signed, and second-tier players Marvin Filipo, Zane Tetevano and Kyle O’Donnell have permission to test the transfer market.

Utility forward Matt Hilder, who is contracted until the end of next year, is reported to have been told he can look for another club but a Knights source has denied this to be the case.

Dragons and former NSW and Australian back-rower Beau Scott will join the Knights next season on a four-year deal.

The Herald reported two weeks ago that other NRL clubs had been approached about the prospect of acquiring Naiqama or Sa’u, before June 30 if feasible.

Negotiations that have taken place since then would suggest Sa’u, who is contracted until the end of next year, is likely to see out the year in Newcastle, and any potential transfer would not occur until the end of this season at the earliest.

Sa’u’s manager, Steve Gillis, said yesterday that the 25-year-old centre had not allowed his relegation to reserve grade unsettle him.

‘‘He’s got the right attitude and he’s not bitter about anything,’’ Gillis said of Sa’u, who will play for the Knights against Balmain Ryde Eastwood in the NSW Cup game at Leichhardt today.

‘‘He’s got his head down, bum up, he’s working hard and he’s playing well, so we’ll see what happens.’’

Naiqama, 29, was dropped to Newcastle’s NSW Cup squad six weeks ago and his only game since then was to fill in for ill centre Timana Tahu against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on June 3, when he scored a try and kicked four goals in Newcastle’s 50-24 loss.

He missed Newcastle’s 42-22 NSW Cup loss to Wentworthville last Sunday as a result of a back injury and he has not been named to play today.

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