New target: Fijian superstar Semi Radradra in the sights of Newcastle Knights

Potential new Knights target Semi Radradra
Potential new Knights target Semi Radradra

Knights coach Nathan Brown is refusing to rule out making a play for Fijian superstar Semi Radradra if the former Eels winger decides to quit French rugby to return to rugby league next season.

It has been widely speculated Radradra would automatically play for Parramatta if he opted not to continue his rugby career in France and return to Australia.

But the Knights, fresh from the signing of Mitchell Pearce, are chasing a top-line outside back and have the financial firepower to throw a spanner in the works of the Eels.

Parramatta is believed to have around $500,000 left in their salary for two players with the Knights having at least double that amount.

Brown was reluctant to buy into the Radradra speculation on Friday but did not deny he could be a target if he was to become available.

“I’m leaving our recruitment in the hands of Moons (head of football Darren Mooney) but we are certainly in the market for a quality outside back and are in a good position with our cap – that’s no secret,”Brown said.

“As far as I know, Semi hasn’t made a decision so I’m not going to speculate.”

Radradra is currently playing with Top 14 French club Toulon on a big money deal after leaving the Eels at the end of last season.

In recent days, there has reportedly been interest from rival club Bordeaux to extend his European stay even longer.

It’s understood the Knights are monitoring Radradra’s movements closely although the Newcastle Herald has been told there has been no approach made to his management.

But that would almost certainly change if the big Fijian indicates a willingness to return to the NRL.

One major positive for the Knights in any potential negotiations with Radradra is they can offer him a position in the centres next season which is rumoured to be where he wants to play rather than on the wing.

That is something the Eels can’t guarantee given they have signed Jarryd Hayne to play in the centres and have Michael Jennings on their books.

Barring the signing of a new backline recruit, Sione Mata’utia faces the prospect of filling the centre role alongside former Bronco Tautau Moga.

Mata’utia has played the majority of his career in the backs before Brown turned him into a dangerous edge-running backrower towards the end of the 2016 season.

The coach said the prospect of shifting Mata’utia from the backrow has nothing to do with the spate of head-knocks he has suffered over the past 18 months that have cast doubt over his long term future in the game.

“At this stage, unless something changes on the recruitment front, Sione will play in the centres,” Brown said.

“I’ve spoken to him about it and he is fine with it. He is happy to play wherever it suits the team. It’s about what is best for the team and is nothing to do with his head knocks.

“They have obviously been a concern but everyone is confident he will be cleared to resume playing.”

What makes Mata’utia’s move more palatable is the fact the Knights are flush with backrow depth.

Brown faces some tough selection decisions with the likes of Jamie Buhrer, Aidan Guerra, Mitch Barnett, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Jacob Saifiti all vying for spots.