Young Fijian Simione Sawene in line for contract with Newcastle

THE Knights are poised to sign Fijian triallist Simione Sawene but have no plans to recruit his high-profile countryman Watisoni Votu.

Sawene and Votu have played in three reserve-grade trials and spent the past month training with the Knights.

Sawene, a 20-year-old front-rower who grew up in Brisbane, has shown enough for the Knights to believe he can be a project player in their NSW Cup squad.

But Votu, the 26-year-old winger who captained Fiji’s World Sevens rugby union team in December, is understood to be considering offers from overseas.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said Sawene would be offered a second-tier deal.

‘‘We were probably looking for a front-rower to bolster our resources in the NSW Cup squad and Simione has been impressive in the trials and he’s been rewarded,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘He’ll be offered a 12-month contract.’’

Gidley was hopeful Votu would benefit from his short stint with the Knights.

‘‘He’s spent a few weeks training with an NRL club and hopefully he’ll learn from that experience and it will help him become a better player,’’ he said.

Sawene, who represented Fiji at the IRB World Junior Championship in Italy last June, is best known as a No.8 in rugby union but has been used as a prop since joining Newcastle.

At 196centimetres and 111kilograms, he appears to have the physical attributes to make an impact in the 13-man code.

Newcastle’s coaching staff believe he is young enough to make a successful transition.

AAP reports: Parramatta’s Ben Smith faces a long stint on the sidelines after the second-rower had surgery on his injured pectoral muscle yesterday.

Smith suffered the injury in last weekend’s trial match against Penrith but chose to delay the surgery until scans had confirmed the extent of the injury.

The club issued a statement indicating Smith was expected to be sidelined ‘‘for an extended period’’. The injury can be season-ending but coach Stephen Kearney is confident the 27-year-old will feature for the Eels later in the year.

‘‘Ben’s obviously very disappointed but there’s positive news in the fact he’s a good chance to return to the field later this season,’’ Kearney said.

‘‘Losing him is a blow for us but fortunately we have a few players who can cover his position.’’

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