BROCK Lamb’s successful cameo off the bench and a rugged effort from Slade Griffin could leave New Zealand Test hooker Danny Levi facing an extended stint in Newcastle’s reserve-grade team.
For the first time in Lamb’s 25-game NRL career, he was used as an interchange substitute in Friday night’s season-opening 19-18 win against Manly. The 21-year-old playmaker was not introduced until the 57th minute, when he replaced Griffin, prompting the versatile Watson to switch from five-eighth to dummy-half.
Lamb made an impact in his brief stint, showing enough ball-distributing nous for Knights coach Nathan Brown to indicate he would persist with the experiment.
“Brock came on and he was good,” Brown said.
“Brock Lamb’s biggest admirer as a player is Nathan Brown. I think I showed that last year when he did it tough early in his career, in the first half of the year.
“Brock had his fair share of critics out there, but he’s got some talent … Lamby brings a totally different thing to the table.”
Brown said Watson, the former Roosters utility, was “a very, very valuable player” because of his ability to handle a variety of roles.
“Obviously Connor is a very movable person and plays a very, very different style of footy,” he said.
“How it all unfolds I couldn’t sit here and tell you, but we want Brock to be a part of our club, and he’s earned a spot in the 17 at the moment. How it all ends up going and unfolding in the long journey with Connor, injuries are always going to play a part.
“We told Connor he’d get a shot and we’ve certainly given him a shot, but … in some ways he’s probably like Kurt Gidley was to the club.
“Different coaches use them differently, but he’s a team player.”
Griffin, a premiership winner with Melbourne last season, started at hooker and was arguably Newcastle’s best performer against Manly, producing a team-high 44 tackles and scoring a smart try from dummy-half.
Brown described Griffin’s contribution as “sensational”.
Levi, who played every game for Newcastle last season and represented New Zealand in four Tests at the World Cup, played in the NSW Cup curtain-raiser on Friday night, in which the Knights drew 28-all with Blacktown Sea Eagles.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams suffered their first losses of the season on Saturday, both against Penrith.
The under-18s were beaten 20-4, and the under-16s 18-12. Newcastle’s under-20s kicked off their season with a 58-10 thrashing of Manly, in which Matthew Cooper scored three tries.