NEW Titans coach Garth Brennan has thrown former Newcastle forward Jack Stockwell a career lifeline, signing him to a contract for next season that may be his last chance to establish himself in the NRL.
Stockwell spent three disappointing years at Newcastle, playing in only 28 games, and was released after making just 10 appearances in 2017.
The former St George Illawarra prop and Australian Schoolboys representative was tipped to join South Sydney, but instead he started training with the Titans this week after signing a one-year, cut-price deal.
Stockwell faces stiff competition for a spot in Brennan’s engine-room rotation, which will also feature Queensland Origin prop Jarrod Wallace, Ryan James and new signing Brenton Lawrence, from Manly.
But Brennan said he was happy to sign a player “who has a point to prove and wants to get his career back on track”.
At 25, Stockwell has 64 NRL games to his name and Brennan was confident his best football was still ahead of him.
“Jack’s had a couple of tough years and hasn’t had a happy run with injuries,” Brennan said.
“But I just remember watching him playing in an under-20s Origin game with Boyd Cordner a few years ago, and I think he was man of the match in that game.
“He’s well aware that this is probably his last crack, and he’s determined to have a real crack.
“I love coaching players who have been written off and are looking for an opportunity.
“It makes them hungrier.
“He’s still only 25, and sometimes front-rowers take a while to mature.
“He’s still got plenty of years ahead of him and we wouldn’t have signed him if we weren’t confident he would provide good value.”
Stockwell, who debuted for the Dragons as a 20-year-old in 2012, arrived in Newcastle for the 2015 season but suffered a season-ending ruptured biceps in his 12th game.
His preparations for 2016 were disrupted by a pre-season calf injury that required surgery.
He proceeded to play in only six games that season and the Knights investigated the option of trading him for a player at a rival club.
Instead Stockwell stayed to honour the final season of his contract with Newcastle, which was reportedly worth $350,000.
He started 2017 strongly, scoring a try in each of Newcastle’s first two games, but did not feature in their top team after round 11.
He was among a host of front-rowers to part company with the Knights during or after the season, along with Josh Starling, Sam Mata’ora, Mickey Paea, Anthony Tupou and Pauli Pauli.
Stockwell was greeted by a familiar face at his first session with the Titans, in former Newcastle outside back Brendan Elliot.
Another Newcastle discard, 23-year-old playmaker Jaelen Feeney, is tipped to link with Queensland Cup side Townsville Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are a feeder team for North Queensland Cowboys.
Feeney, a former Queensland under-20s representative, played 13 top-grade games for Newcastle in 2016 and 2017 as fullback, half and centre but the Knights opted not to re-sign him.