POPULAR Knights prop Richie Fa’aoso is expected to sever ties with the club this week and play out the rest of the season with Melbourne.
The Newcastle Herald has been told the hard-running Tongan international will fly to the Victorian capital today for a medical examination and, barring unforeseen circumstances, will finalise a contract – before the June 30 transfer deadline expires at midnight on Saturday – to finish the season with the Storm.
His future beyond this year remains unclear but he has reportedly been in negotiations with Melbourne and Manly for the past week.
Fa’aoso, who was coming off contract at the end of the season, was one of several senior Knights players dropped to the club’s second-tier NSW Cup squad in the past month after coach Wayne Bennett ran out of patience with his under-performing team and tinkered with different combinations.
The Herald has been told 28-year-old Fa’aoso will be released with the Knights’ best wishes. Fa’aoso, who joined the Knights at the start of 2008 after stints at Parramatta, English club Castleford, Penrith and Sydney Roosters, will be stranded on 99 NRL games for Newcastle.
Neither Fa’aoso nor his manager, Matt Desira from Pacific Sports Management, could be contacted for comment last night. The Knights’ policy is to not comment on issues related to player recruitment or retention.
Fa’aoso told the Herald two weeks ago that he was considering offers from two Sydney NRL clubs, Japanese rugby union club Panasonic Wild Knights, and that other NRL clubs had shown interest in signing him.
Throughout his negotiations elsewhere, Fa’aoso has always insisted he wanted to stay at the Knights but they had told him he would not be retained and had permission to test the transfer market.
Fa’aoso told the Herald two weeks ago that he would consider leaving before the June 30 transfer deadline if he could strike the right deal.
‘‘As I’ve said all along, I want to stay with the Knights because Newcastle is my home now, but I have to do what’s best for myself and my family,’’ Fa’aoso told the Herald on June 15.
‘‘I’m just weighing up all my options now and I’ll see what happens from there, but it’s driving me crazy. I just want to get something sorted out as soon as possible because not knowing what my future holds is very frustrating.’’
Former Knights forward Clint Newton made the same career move in 2007 when, after he played his 100th game for the club, he announced he was leaving after a much publicised falling out with then coach Brian Smith.
Newton joined the Storm and went on to play a leading role in their 34-8 grand final victory over Manly that year, though the NRL later stripped Melbourne of that title and their 2009 premiership because of deliberate breaches of the salary cap.