STEPHEN Kearney’s exit from the Eels could have an impact on Newcastle’s chances of signing former NSW front-rower Justin Poore.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett wants to bolster the club’s front-row stocks for next season, having allowed Evarn Tuimavave (Hull KR), Richie Fa’aoso (Melbourne this season, Manly next year) and Zeb Taia (Catalans Dragons) to find new clubs.
Off-contract NSW Cup representative prop Kyle O’Donnell has spoken to Penrith but has not yet agreed to terms.
The Knights and Raiders were linked to Poore last month, with a view to a pre-June 30 release, because the 27-year-old former Dragons prop was unhappy at the Eels under Kearney.
Now that Kearney has left, and Ricky Stuart is poised to take his place, Poore could decide to stay at Parramatta and try to re-establish himself under the NSW Origin coach.
But as reported in Rugby League Week magazine yesterday, Bennett has spoken to Poore in recent weeks about the prospect of a reunion in Newcastle next year.
Bennett coached the Helensburgh junior at the Dragons in 2009, when he played 21 games as a starting prop and represented NSW in all three games of their 2-1 Origin series loss. Poore left to join the Eels at the end of 2009 and missed the Dragons’ premiership win the following year.
Whether the Knights can afford to recruit Poore and stay under the salary cap is another matter the club’s number crunchers have to consider, given that they have already signed Beau Scott (Dragons) and are tipped to add Jeremy Smith (Sharks) to their roster.
Poore missed most of last season due to a knee injury and has had limited opportunities at the Eels this year, starting just five of the 17 games he has played.
¦ The Knights are closing in on re-signing big-hitting forward Joel Edwards.
After he knocked back a lucrative three-year contract extension last summer, negotiations stalled during the team’s five-game losing streak, but it is understood the 24-year-old Cessnock junior and the Knights have all but agreed to terms on a new two-year deal.
The Knights are expected to announce the re-signing of second-rower Chris Houston any time soon, and are confident of extending prop Willie Mason’s contract for at least another year.
¦ England-bound Knights prop Evarn Tuimavave hopes to force his way back into Newcastle’s NRL squad before leaving at the end of the year to join Hull Kingston Rovers for the next two English Super League seasons.
As reported in the Newcastle Herald yesterday, Tuimavave will join former Knights teammates Shannon McDonnell, Con Mika and Cory Paterson and former Knights assistant coach Craig Sandercock at Hull KR next season.
In a statement on the Knights’ website yesterday, the former Warriors and Kiwi Test forward thanked Newcastle’s fans for supporting him when he suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in 2010 – his first year at the club.
“I had a great year last year with the boys making the finals. This year just hasn’t gone the way I’d liked it to, but everything happens for a reason,’’ said Tuimavave, who has played just three NRL games this season.
‘‘I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life over in England and I thank everyone at the Knights for my time here.’’
¦ Former Knights prop Richie Fa’aoso made his debut for Melbourne in their 16-10 loss to the Eels at Parramatta Stadium last Saturday night, and has retained his place in Craig Bellamy’s squad for their game against the Dragons at WIN Stadium tomorrow night.
Fa’aoso played 26 minutes off the bench against the Eels, making 10 tackles without a miss and eight runs for 58 metres. He hopes to increase those numbers against the Dragons and help the Storm end a four-game losing streak – their longest in the Bellamy era.
¦ Matt Hilder will play his first game in more than two months when he comes off the bench for the Knights in the NSW Cup game against Illawarra Cutters at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
After suffering several concussions, the experienced forward underwent a series of neurological tests and Knights coach Wayne Bennett was concerned he would not play again this year.
But the two-time Knights Players’ Player of the Year has been cleared to return and hopes to return to the NRL squad before the end of the season.