THEY are the hardened veterans willing to help their home-town club in its hour of greatest need.
Unfortunately for Dane Tilse and Joel Edwards, their interest in re-joining the Newcastle Knights appears unlikely to be reciprocated.
The Herald understands that Tilse, 31, and Edwards, 28, would both be enthusiastic about finishing their NRL careers where they started, but Knights officials are backing themselves to find better options by exploring the marketplace.
Newcastle’s quest to bolster their squad with some experienced forwards is well documented, a situation that has been exacerbated by Greg Bird’s decision to accept a remarkable five-year deal to join Catalans Dragons.
The Knights had identified the former Gold Coast enforcer as their No.1 target for next season, but they are now proceeding with Plan B.
Newcastle have already signed Jamie Buhrer (Manly) and Rory Kostjacyn (North Queensland) but still have significant funds available and are hoping to add three or four new players before 2017 kicks off.
Tilse has spent the past 18 months playing for Hull KR in England and was signed up for next season.
But it is understood that after Rovers were relegated from Super League, all contracts became null and void and he is effectively a free agent.
The towering prop debuted in the NRL for the Knights as a 19-year-old but played only three games before he was controversially sacked for an off-field incident. He proceeded to play 201 games for Canberra over the next 10 seasons. He has returned to Newcastle after the English season finished and is understood to be keen to continue playing.
Edwards spent the first three seasons of his NRL career with Newcastle, playing in 45 top-grade games.
He then linked with Canberra, playing 43 games before apparently falling out of favour with coach Ricky Stuart.
At the end of 2015, he signed a two-year deal with Wests Tigers and played eight games for them last season, seven of which were during their belated charge for the finals.
Although he is contracted to the Tigers for next year, the Herald has been told the rugged back-rower from Cessnock would welcome a return to Newcastle.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said coach Nathan Brown and football manager Darren Mooney were considering “a whole range” of potential imports, but neither Tilse nor Edwards had featured in discussions.
“I’m not sure what Tilsey’s plans are,’’ Gidley said. “He’s not someone we’ve looked at … I’m not aware of where Joel is up to.
“In terms of back-row edge players, we’ve got a number of guys that can fill those spots.
“I’m sure his manager will certainly push his name forward if he’s looking for an opportunity.’’
Meanwhile, Manly forward Jake Trbojevic is in line for a shock Test debut after being drafted into the Kangaroos squad for the injured Josh Papalii.
Canberra's Papalii was ruled out of Saturday's Test against New Zealand in Perth and Australia's Four Nations campaign because of an ongoing ankle injury.
Papalii carried the injury into Kangaroos camp and after struggling to train this week, the decision was made to replace him in the 24-man squad.
With Wests Tigers forward Aaron Woods absent due to his marriage, Kangaroos starting prop Matt Scott said Trbojevic could make international debut against the Kiwis at nib Stadium after being brought into the Australian squad on Thursday.
"He is a definite chance of playing," Scott said in Perth.
"We are very disappointed for Josh. He has been in great form this year and it is sad to see him leave the camp.
"But Jake is a great addition to the group.
"I am looking forward to spending a few weeks with him and hopefully playing alongside him."
Papalli's injury means Trbojevic could be a number of rookies alongside Shannon Boyd, Valentine Holmes and Tyson Frizell to make their Test debuts against New Zealand on Saturday.
The loss of Papalii is a blow to the Kangaroos who are faced with the task of stopping a massive Kiwi pack.
But Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said 22-year-old Trbojevic, was a worthy addition to his squad.
"Jake will give us size and intimidation," Meninga said.
"It is always disappointing to lose a player of Josh's calibre but this will be a wonderful opportunity for Jake and I'm excited to see what he can do in the green and gold jersey."
A Test debut would mark a remarkable rise for Trbojevic, who is yet to play State of Origin but is seen as a long term representative player of the future.
He has played 47 games for the Sea Eagles since 2013 and re-signed with the club last week until the end of the 2020 NRL season.