KNIGHTS coach Nathan Brown admits the club has chosen not to spend the full salary cap this season in a quest to bolster Newcastle’s 2018 roster with a spending spree.
On Foxtel’s On the Couch with Sterlo show on Tuesday night, host Peter Sterling said Newcastle were $1 million below the salary cap this season, and Brown, appearing as a special guest, did not disagree.
Combine that with the drug-related suspension of Jarrod Mullen, and injuries to key signings Jamie Buhrer (broken ankle) and Rory Kostjasyn (throat), and the Knights have roughly a third of their $7 million salary cap unavailable.
Adding to the odds stacked against Newcastle, heavyweight clubs are augmenting their salary cap with third-party sponsorships, which can reportedly increase their players wage pool by up to $3 million. The financial disparity between the Knights and their more affluent rivals is reflected in the competition points table. Newcastle are last after one win from seven games, having finished wooden spooners in 2015 and 2016.
Brown was confident Newcastle’s strategy would pay dividends in the long run.
Asked if it was accurate that his club kicked off this campaign with $1 million in reserve, Brown replied: “What I’d say is we’ve certainly got a big number that we’re under the cap.
“There’s a lot of quality players coming onto the market next year. Once they all sign up after this year, they won’t be on the market.
“We felt, me and [football manager Darren Mooney] in particular, and being backed by the club, getting our roster right long-term is the most important thing for the Knights.
“We haven’t made any short-term decisions. It may impact us in the short term.
“But we’ve seen clubs go down this path before where they try for the quick fix. There’s one or two clubs out there who have the power to go for the quick fix.
“Most clubs have to take their time. We brought all these young kids in last year and we owe it to them to put the right players around them.’’
Brown said the absence of Mullen and Kostjasyn’s experience had “certainly hurt us in the tight battles”, but he was encouraged “that the guys have been fighting and consistently putting ourselves in positions where we are capable of winning”.
Newcastle have signed North Queensland dynamo Kalyn Ponga for next season and have expressed interest in a number of other big names, including Cowboys prop Matt Scott, Melbourne lock Dale Finucane, Cronulla pair Matt Prior and Jack Bird and, most recently, Warriors five-eighth Kieran Foran.
“We’ve cleared up a lot of money and we’ve got a lot of money available,’’ Brown said.
“We want to attract a couple of high-profile players with a lot of experience to go with our younger players … the players we’re looking at are very well-credentialled.”
Brown said Foran was “a world-class player” and the Knights had no concerns about approaching the Kiwi international, despite a controversy-plagued 2016, during which he was re-registered by the NRL.
Brown met with Foran on the Central Coast last weekend.
“Everyone you talk to about Kieran Foran, everyone says the same thing: he’s a great person,’’ Brown said.
“Look, he’s not the first person that’s lost his way a little bit and he’s certainly not a player that’s been sacked from club to club.’’