KNIGHTS officials are standing firm despite receiving a formal request from Jack Cogger’s manager to release the Belmore-bound halfback early.
Cogger signed on Tuesday a two-year deal with Canterbury but remains under contract to Newcastle for 2018.
His agent, Michael Newton, submitted a formal application for release on Wednesday and intends to pursue the matter further when the club’s chief executive, Phil Gardner, returns next week from annual leave.
But Knights football manager Darren Mooney indicated the issue was non-negotiable, saying: “Jack will be here in 2018.”
Coach Nathan Brown said he had nothing further to add, after declaring two weeks ago: “I’ve got no doubt that Jack will play first grade for us at some stage this season.”
The impasse has been complicated by the uncertainty surrounding the future of Trent Hodkinson, who has attracted interest from Manly, his original NRL club.
As things stand, Newcastle have five playmakers with NRL experience on their roster and, barring injury, new recruits Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson will almost certainly start the season as Brown’s first-choice scrumbase pairing.
That will leave Cogger, Hodkinson and Brock Lamb – all of whom have a season left on their contracts – battling for two spots in Newcastle’s NSW Cup team.
It would appear Newcastle have a surplus of halves, but if they agreed to release Cogger, and then Hodkinson struck a deal with Manly, suddenly Brown would be left with only one proven playmaker as back-up for his main men.
Newcastle’s refusal to entertain a release for Cogger stands in stark contrast to their willingness to allow Hodkinson to move on.
Brown said in a radio interview last week it was still a "possibility" that Hodkinson could be headed to Brookvale.
“If some better opportunity comes up and Trent says he'd like to take it, well we wouldn't stand in his way,” Brown said.
The difference is that Hodkinson is one of Newcastle’s highest-paid players, and Cogger is on a fraction of his salary.
There would little financial benefit for the Knights in allowing Cogger to join a rival club, but if they could strike a deal to offer Hodkinson a partial payout, they might reap a significant windfall.