COMMON sense suggests that something, eventually, will have to give.
While Newcastle’s powers-that-be insist that Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger are contracted for 2018 and will not be granted early releases, it remains to be seen how long before that conviction starts to waver.
Lamb and Cogger, who were teammates in the 2014 Australian Schoolboys, have long been regarded as two of Newcastle’s brightest prospects.
Now they find what seems to be a roadblock obstructing their path to the top grade, after the recent decision by Mitchell Pearce to join his former Roosters scrum-base partner Connor Watson at the Knights.
Pearce and Watson appear certain to kick off next season as Newcastle’s starting halves, leaving Lamb, Cogger and former NSW playmaker Trent Hodkinson waiting impatiently for an opportunity.
The dilemma for Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is that he doesn’t possess a crystal ball, and hence can only hazard an educated guess at how good Lamb and Cogger will become.
Both are still only 20 and could potentially develop into long-term first-graders.
Should they leave the Knights and enjoy success elsewhere, it is inevitable that Newcastle fans will be left querying the loss of two local juniors.
Already supporters can only wonder how the likes of Boyd Cordner, Josh Jackson, Latrell Mitchell, Tevita Pangai, Will Smith, Kurt Mann and Kerrod Holland ended up at rival clubs after spending their formative years in Newcastle’s system.
While the Knights have stated that both Lamb and Cogger feature in their future plans, it is no surprise that their managers are exploring other options.
Perhaps with some justification, they may have formed the view that NRL contracts, in this day and age, are hardly iron-clad.
The Knights know this from first-hand experience. Over the past few seasons, the likes of Joseph Tapine, Tariq and Korbin Sims, Tyler Randell and Joe Wardle have been allowed to leave the club prematurely, while Chris Houston, Adam Clydsdale, Akuila Uate and Jake Mamo have been paid out and moved on.
Moreover, if Hodkinson came and asked to join an opposing outfit, Newcastle would probably offer to pay for his removalist.
Yet the same courtesy apparently does not apply to Lamb and Cogger, and perhaps that is fair enough.
Why should the Knights allow Cogger to join the Bulldogs, or Lamb to link with Manly, given that to reach the top eight next season, Newcastle may have to finish ahead of both clubs?
Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine that this issue is done and dusted.
In modern-day rugby league, it seems if a player really wants out, he usually gets his way. Examples such as North Queensland refusing to allow Kalyn Ponga to join Newcastle 12 months early have become the exception, rather than the norm.
Even if Cogger and Lamb are still with the Knights when next season kicks off, much will depend on what happens between round one and the June 30 transfer deadline.
By then all parties will have a clearer idea of the big picture.
If Pearce and Watson stay injury-free and Lamb and Cogger have been playing predominantly in the NSW Cup, Knights officials may have to reassess the situation.
In the meantime, the best course of action for Newcastle’s home-grown halves might be simply to play so well that coach Brown has no option other than to pick them.
EARLY CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR KNIGHTS
THE Knights are expected to receive an early Christmas present with confirmation that their proposed Centre of Excellence will proceed. An announcement could be forthcoming as early as next week.
Under the proposal, the Wests Group have submitted a $10 million tender, which will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by a State Government grant.
Construction of the new $20 million facility, which is likely to be based on the current harness racing track at Broadmeadow, would start next year.
South Sydney, Cronulla, the Roosters and Canterbury are also set to receive funding.
ANOTHER BODY BLOW FOR JETS
NEWCASTLE Jets fans are entitled to be wondering if their club is cursed.
First they lost marquee import Ronny Vargas to a broken ankle.
Now leading scorer Roy O’Donovan will join him on the sidelines for 12 weeks with a groin injury.
Just when it seemed the footballing gods were smiling on Newcastle, they have reminded us what a fickle mob they are.
Fortunately for the Jets, both players should be back in time for the finals.
The challenge for Jets coach Ernie Merrick now is to ensure his players keep believing in themselves in the absence of their two talismen.