TOWERING forward Jack Stockwell is expected to part company with the Newcastle Knights barely halfway into his three-year contract.
Stockwell has not featured in Newcastle’s top side since the round-11 loss to Wests Tigers at Campbelltown a month ago and there is widespread speculation he has fallen out of favour with coach Nathan Brown.
The Newcastle Herald understands his manager, David Riolo, has been in negotiations with Penrith about a possible transfer before the June 30 cut-off date.
There is also reported to be another Sydney club interested in the 24-year-old prop, who joined the Knights from St George Illawarra at the start of last season.
If a payout figure can be agreed, Stockwell is set to become the third Newcastle forward this season to make an early exit, following Joseph Tapine (Canberra) and Tariq Sims (St George Illawara).
Stockwell is reported to be on a lucrative deal with Newcastle worth $350,000 a season, and the Knights will almost certainly have to subsidise the final year of his contract if he joins a rival team.
That money would count towards their salary cap next season, just as payouts for former players Tyrone Roberts (Gold Coast), Chris Houston (Widnes) and Adam Clydsdale (Canberra) are included in Newcastle’s 2016 budget.
A 2009 Australian Schoolboys representative who debuted in the NRL as a 20-year-old, Stockwell was granted an early release by the Dragons to join Newcastle.
Stockwell played in 12 games for Newcastle last year before he suffered a season-ending ruptured biceps.
He has made only seven NRL appearances this year, in which he has averaged 30 tackles each game but only once made more than 100 metres in attack.
While a partial payout is likely to be needed to entice Stockwell to leave, the Knights would be able to spend the balance of his contract on a replacement for next season.
That player could be English utility Joe Wardle, who Brown coached when he was at Huddersfield.
In 129 games for the Giants as centre and back-rower, he has scored 58 tries.
The Herald understands the 24-year-old has agreed to terms with Newcastle for 2018 but the Knights hope he can join them next season, pending a release from Huddersfield.
Stockwell missed Saturday’s 44-6 loss to Penrith in NSW Cup because of a shoulder injury.
Former Test winger Akuila Uate played for Newcastle and coach Matt Lantry said he was “strong, and tried hard, despite limited opportunities’’.
Like Stockwell, Uate’s future with the Knights is under a cloud and his only hope of an NRL recall this season will be if he finds form and confidence quickly in second grade.
Meanwhile, just 48 hours after his mid-season departure from Newcastle, Sims debuted for the Dragons in their 20-10 win against a depleted Melbourne at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
He came off the bench and made 112 metres from 13 carries and 17 tackles in 31 minutes.
Having left the likely wooden spooners, he now hopes to help the Dragons reach the play-offs.
"Absolutely, we're a top-eight team,’’ Sims said.