HIGH-profile Knights signing Aidan Guerra will put club before country after opting out of representing Italy at the World Cup.
Guerra would have been a certain inclusion in an Azzurri line-up that is expected to feature other NRL stars, including James Tedesco, Paul Vaughan and Nathan Brown.
But the former Roosters back-rower, who has signed a three-year deal with the Knights, has informed Italy coach Cameron Ciraldo he is unavailable, apparently citing logistical reasons associated with moving his family to Newcastle.
That means the 29-year-old should be able to join his new teammates early in the pre-season, rather than belatedly after the World Cup and mandatory off-season break.
Guerra represented Italty at the 2013 World Cup, playing in all three matches as a stopgap centre.
He has also played in one Test for Australia, during the 2014 Four Nations tournament, and 10 Origins for Queensland.
Meanwhile, Knights officials have spoken to a number of candidates for the assistant coaching position vacated by Kurt Wrigley.
Wrigley, who spent one year at Newcastle, is moving back to Sydney for family reasons.
There has been speculation that Nathan Brown’s other assistant, Mick Potter, might also be leaving, but he is under contract for one more season and has not yet officially asked for a release.
Former Melbourne and Canberra front-rower Brett White, who this season coached the Raiders’ under-20s, was linked to Wrigley’s job.
But White has been promoted to replace Dean Pay as Ricky Stuart’s assistant, signing a two-year contract this week.
It is understood the Knights have made no approach to highly successful Penrith lower-grade coach Garth Brennan. Brennan, who started his coaching career with Newcastle’s under-20s, won his second NSW Cup premiership with the Panthers this season.
He then steered Penrith to a resounding 42-18 win against Papua New Guinea Hunters in the annual challenge between the NSW and Queensland premiers.