THE Knights have turned their attention to keeping pack leader Kade Snowden after re-signing Dane Gagai and conceding Beau Scott will leave the club at the end of the year.
Fairfax Media reported last Friday that Scott is expected to sign a three-year deal with Parramatta this week. The Knights then announced shortly before kick-off in their 22-6 loss to Cronulla at Shark Park that night that Gagai had signed a two-year contract extension.
Knights director of football Michael Hagan would not speculate about where Scott will play next season but said the NSW and Australian enforcer would leave with the club’s blessing.
Scott had been contracted at the Knights until the end of 2017 but will be granted an early release on compassionate grounds. His decision to leave Newcastle is believed to be related to a family health issue that he has not discussed publicly.
‘‘We can confirm that Beau won’t be a part of our plans for next season, which is disappointing, but as a club we’ve been aware of the circumstances around that for some time,’’ Hagan told the Newcastle Herald on Monday.
‘‘We’ve done what we can to entice him to say but, in the end, I think that was a family decision for him to move on, so we accept that he won’t be able to fulfil his contract here.’’
‘‘As for any announcement about where he plans to play, that’s a matter for Beau and his manager to make at the appropriate time.’’
Having secured Gagai and brothers Sione, Pat and Chanel Mata’utia in the past month, Hagan indicated Snowden, veteran lock Jeremy Smith and promising outside back Jake Mamo were the next three targets on the club’s retention hit list.
Snowden wants to continue his career with his junior club, Smith is on the radar of at least one rival NRL team, and Mamo is reportedly being chased by Manly and St George Illawarra.
Hagan said coach Rick Stone was keen to keep 28-year-old Snowden, and had discussed offering Smith a new contract in light of Scott’s decision to leave at the end of the season.
Whether the Knights can convince Mamo, 20, to stay could depend on captain Kurt Gidley’s plans beyond this year.
Gidley, who turns 33 in June, is off contract at the end of the season and is considering finishing his career in England with a Super League club.
His older brother Matt followed that path when he left at the end of 2006 and played four seasons for St Helens before retiring and returning to the Knights, where he is now the club’s chief executive officer.
‘‘We’ll reassess our needs and then we’ll be in a position to make some formal offers in due course,’’ Hagan said.
‘‘Jake Mamo is another player we’ve made an offer to so we need to keep that conversation going, and we need to have him comfortable about what the pathway might look like for him.’’
Snowden is in the final year of the four-year contract he signed shortly after former owner Nathan Tinkler took control of the Knights in 2011. Earlier that year, he was poised to sign a new deal with Cronulla but Tinkler convinced him to return to Newcastle.
Playing without injury, the former NSW and Australian prop has been the Knights’ most consistent performer in the first six rounds this season. He won back-to-back players’ player awards in victories over Gold Coast and Penrith, and he still made 46 tackles against his former club last Friday even though it was the first game this season that he had been contained to less than 100 running metres.
It is understood Scott’s deal with the Eels is for two years, with a club option for a third.
Scott, who turns 31 next month, was the Knights’ 2014 player of the year. He had continued that form during Newcastle’s unbeaten opening month this season before tearing ankle ligaments in their 13-0 loss to former club St George Illawarra at Hunter Stadium on April 4.
He missed the loss to his other former club, Cronulla, last Friday and will again be sidelined when the Knights play his soon-to-be new club Parramatta at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Gagai had been targeted by at least six other NRL teams, including Gold Coast and former club Brisbane, but agreed to stay in Newcastle for a two-year deal reportedly worth $1.15million.
‘‘Dane has chosen to stay and be part of our plans, which is very pleasing, and he’s got plenty of footy in front of him,’’ Hagan said of the 24-year-old Queensland Origin aspirant. ‘‘That’s clearly the way we’re looking at our roster for the future, so that was a really positive announcement for us.’’
Playmaker Jarrod Mullen and back-rower Tariq Sims are being treated for shoulder injuries and will be assessed later this week to determine their chances of playing against the Eels.
Parramatta forwards Nathan Peats and Manu Ma’u will be clear to play against the Knights if they plead guilty to grade-one dangerous throw charges for a lifting tackle on Gold Coast’s Dave Taylor last Saturday.