THE manager of departing Knights forward Joel Edwards believes his client is a potential State of Origin player for next season who will have no trouble finding a new NRL club after rejecting an extension offer from his home-town team.
The 24-year-old Cessnock Goannas junior knocked back a two-year deal from the Knights on Wednesday reportedly worth more than $300,000. It was believed to be downgraded from a three-year offer tabled last Christmas, worth close to $600,000.
News of the development came yesterday as 21-year-old rookie Knights forward Kyle O’Donnell signed a two-year deal with Penrith.
Edwards was one of several Knights first-graders who were in limbo after coach Wayne Bennett’s decision to defer all contract talks while he assessed performances.
The Knights then offered Edwards, who has racked up 44 games since debuting in Newcastle’s 6-4 win over Parramatta on June 21, 2010, a one-year deal before extending it to two.
The club expressed shock and disappointment yesterday at Edwards’s rejection of the deal, which they believed was more than fair.
Edwards’s manager Darryl Mather would not comment on details of the offer but was confident Edwards would easily find a suitable deal at another NRL club.
‘‘This is a quality player we’re talking about, not some run-of-the-mill player, and quality players usually find employment,’’ Mather said.
‘‘If he was a marginal player, the fact we’re talking about next year and it’s round 22, it could be problematic.
‘‘But I think Joel will be a Country player next year and could even be in contention for Origin.’’
He said Edwards, who directed inquiries from the Herald to Mather, had wanted to stay with the Knights, but the two parties could not find common ground.
‘‘We wouldn’t have gone through months of discussions if we didn’t want that result,’’ Mather said about Edwards’s hopes of re-signing.
‘‘There’s a tinge of disappointment, but it’s a 16-team competition and players move. It’s the nature of the commercial game we’re in.
‘‘He will be wearing different colours, but he will still be a player in this competition.
‘‘We just couldn’t reach a commercial agreement.
‘‘Both parties had their own hopes and expectations but unfortunately we just couldn’t get there.
‘‘It was handled well by both sides. We shook hands and now Joel moves on.’’
Despite the rejection of the offer, Mather said no deals with other clubs were in the pipeline.
‘‘It only happened in the last 36 hours that we decided to go separate ways,’’ he said.
‘‘All our efforts up until the decision had been on discussions with Newcastle, so that’s something we will look at now.’’
Edwards has been linked to a move to the nation’s capital, but Mather would not comment on any speculation over a new NRL home for the hard-hitting defender.
He was adamant Edwards would not be heading overseas to a UK Super League side. ‘‘Players of his age and quality don’t need to go to overseas,’’ he said.