Newcastle coach Nathan Brown says he won’t be backing away from his pledge to give new recruit Connor Watson a “really good shot” at nailing down the five-eighth spot next season, despite fears it may cost the club Brock Lamb’s signature.
The debate over who should partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves is already a major talking point in the wake of the signing of the former Sydney Roosters playmaker late last week.
Knights legend Andrew Johns told the Newcastle Herald he believes the club should be building its future around a Pearce/Lamb combination.
But Brown confirmed Watson will start the season in the No.6 jumper and only time will tell how long he remains there.
“We signed Connor to be a running six and we’ll give him a really good shot at it,” Brown said.
“You just don’t know how things are going to play out and there are a number of things that could happen.
“Kayln is obviously going to play fullback but if he was to get injured than obviously Connor can slot in there and Brock then gets an opportunity.
“But from my point of view, for Connor to nail down a first grade starting position, he needs some time to play there and we’ll be giving him that.”
Lamb is off contract at the end of next year and has already been linked to Manly.
But there is no chance he will be released early and Brown remains hopeful he can be retained long term.
“I’ve always openly said how much confidence I’ve got in Brock Lamb,” he said.
“Brock’s a very subtle ball-player and not too many players possess that sort of skill, particularly at his age.
“He showed at the back end of last year what a talent he is going to be and over time with experience, he will get better and better. Mitch will come and play a big part in him getting better but ultimately, it [his future] will come down to his decision.”
Brown says the competition for spots in the halves is healthy.
“Brock is going to be putting a lot of pressure on and the same goes for Jack Cogger,” he said.
“They are all training the house down and then there is Hodko [Trent Hodkinson], who is another experienced one. So, for the first time since I have been here, we have some real genuine pressure and genuine options there.”
One quality that Lamb possesses that Watson doesn’t is his ability to kick goals, which could become a factor with the Knights not having a recognised kicker if neither Lamb or Hodkinson plays.
“That’s an area where Brock is really good at and I’ve spoken to him about that being important,” he said.
“It gives him another string to his bow that others don’t have.
“Kalyn [Ponga] can kick goals but we have that to think about with our team selections and with our future recruitment as well because goal-kicking is obviously such a big part of the game.”
Meanwhile, Pearce will be calling the shots with the Knights for the first time at training on Monday.