ADAM Cuthbertson hopes to be the last piece in a premiership-winning puzzle after signing a three-year deal with the Newcastle Knights yesterday.
The former Manly, Cronulla and St George Illawarra forward has secured the final berth in Newcastle’s top-25 roster, a position that became available because unwanted back-rower Constantine Mika is linking with English club Hull Kingston Rovers.
Cuthbertson has been frustratingly close to grand final glory without sampling it for himself.
At Manly, he played in the 2007 title decider but suffered a 34-8 loss to Melbourne. The following season they avenged that with a record 40-0 hammering of the Storm, but Cuthbertson was 18th man.
This season he joined the Dragons, who were reigning premiers, but they were eliminated by Brisbane two weeks before the grand final.
So near yet so far from the ultimate reward, Cuthbertson is confident he has a great chance to make amends with the Knights.
‘‘Unfortunately I was so close – missing out in ’08 after losing in ’07.
‘‘And even this year we thought we would have gone a lot further.
‘‘But it’s definitely made me a lot hungrier and more determined to make it to a grand final and win one.
‘‘Hopefully I can bring that determination to Newcastle with me.’’
Cuthbertson had no doubt that the Knights, boosted by fellow newcomers Darius Boyd, Kade Snowden, Timana Tahu and Danny Buderus, would be a contender under master coach Wayne Bennett.
‘‘Just by the look at the squad, and what the boys achieved last year, it’s going to be exciting times,’’ he said.
The 26-year-old said Bennett was a ‘‘big factor’’ in his move to Newcastle, after the veteran tactician resurrected his career by throwing him a lifeline when he was struggling at Cronulla.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said the acquisition of Cuthbertson, which was mooted months ago, would round out Newcastle’s 2012 roster.
Gidley predicted Newcastle would field a stronger roster than in 2011, when they were eliminated in the first round of the play-offs.
‘‘Out of of the top 25, there are 11 guys who have played over 100 first-grade games,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll have some real experience and some great leaders.’’
Gidley said Cuthbertson would add versatility to Newcastle’s pack.
‘‘Everyone knows he can play on an edge, as a creative back-rower-type player with wonderful ball skills, but I think Wayne used him really productively towards the back end of this year in the middle of the field,’’ he said.
Mika, who is understood to have signed a two-year deal with Hull KR, could not be contacted yesterday.
But on Twitter he indicated he had left Newcastle after 14 NRL games for the Knights.
‘‘That time peeps, time to jet,’’ he tweeted. ‘‘Thank u @NRLKnights for a great time up there. Catchya on the rebound #nextchapter.’’