After being beaten up in the forwards by a physical St George Illawarra on Easter Sunday in Wollongong, it is no surprise the Knights’ hunt for frontrow re-inforcements for next season is a priority.
The club has already confirmed they have made inquires about enticing young tearaway Brisbane Broncos prop Tevita Pangai Jnr back to Newcastle.
But his $600,000 plus a season asking price is apparently not something the Knights will seriously entertain.
The likes of Shannon Boyd and Josh Papalii are off contract at the Canberra Raiders while Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman was shopped to the club earlier this season.
But the word is the player high on the club’s wish-list is Dragons prop Leeson Ah Mau, who left a handful of would-be Knights defenders in his wake in scoring a powerhouse second half try last weekend.
This column understands the 28-year-old Samoan international has already been in town for talks with club officials and a look around the city, a prerequisite for any potential new recruit.
Ah Mau has loads of experience.
He made his NRL debut for the Warriors back in 2009 as a 19 year old, has played 158 games in the top grade and has spent the past seven seasons at the Dragons.
Despite his longevity, the thought is he is only just peaking as a player and his stats this season would seem to back that up.
Despite playing less than 40 minutes on average off the bench, he is coming on and making a huge impact, averaging around 135 metres a game.
In the Knights’ favour is the Dragons have plenty of high-priced forwards on their roster and will struggle to come up with a deal to keep him.
Pangai threat no surprise to Fitzy
He is rated the NRL’s hottest young frontrower but the rise of Tevita Pangai Jnr at the Broncos has come as no surprise to Knights backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
Pangi is a Newcastle Knights junior who the club desperately wanted to keep.
But he slipped out of the system after his family left Newcastle and moved to Canberra when he was still a teenager.
Fitzy clearly remembers playing alongside Pangai in South Newcastle juniors in an Under 17 grandfinal several years ago.
“Tevita and Sione [Mata’utia] were both 15, playing two years up in the Under 17’s, and still killing it despite the age difference,”he said.
“We had a good side and I think we won the grandfinal something like 42-0.”
Knights on Wighton watch
Knights officials will be watching the developments surrounding fullback Jack Wighton and the Canberra Raiders very closely.
There is speculation Wighton could be sacked by the club if he is charged and subsequently found guilty of an alleged pre-season altercation currently being investigated by police.
Everyone knows Newcastle is desperate for quality outside backs but what most don’t know is Wighton’s management apparently made some discrete inquires with the Knights before the start of this season to see if the club was interested in signing him if he was to leave Canberra.
The suggestion at the time was Wighton sees his best chance of playing representative footy as a centre and not at fullback where he plays for the Raiders.
He would be a great pick-up but a potential NRL ban if he is charged and found guilty would throw a spanner in the works.
Chanel Mata’utia may not be the only member of the family to be playing local league in the Newcastle premiership this season.
Chanel will play for the Cessnock Goannas this year after walking out on the final year of his contract at the Knights a couple of weeks into pre-season training.
And it appears he could find himself coming up against his brother Pat at some stage.
Still on a lucrative Knights deal until the end of the season, Pat is struggling to force his way into the club’s NSW Cup side and actually played for junior club South Newcastle in a trial a few weeks back.
Willie or won’t he play for the Rosellas ?
They struck out with former Kiwi Test forward Frank-Paul Nu’uausala and now it seems there is a cloud over Western Surburbs Rosellas other big name new signing Willie Tonga.
The former Kangaroo and Queensland Origin centre, who turns 35 this year, will see specialist Neil Halpin on Monday to find out if a knee injury will prevent him even lacing up the boots for the Rosellas.
“There is a bit of a concern there,”coach Matt Lantry told us.
“He had a little op at the back-end of last year and it hasn’t responded. We’ll know more after he sees Neil.”
For a good cause
The reaction from the wider sporting community to the financial plight of former Jets skipper Jobe Wheelhouse and his junior football tour groups highlighted by my colleague James Gardiner in the Newcastle Herald early last month has been enormous.
A fund-raiser tonight was to have been held at Charlestown Bowling Club but was switched to Newcastle Racecourse marquee after 420 tickets were sold.
Some of the outstanding auction items up for grabs include a Lionel Messi-signed Barcelona jersey, Wayne Rooney-autographed boots and shirt and Socceroos, Matildas and Jets gear.
Knights captain Mitchell Pearce has donated a signed and framed 2017 Game two NSW State of Origin jumper while a pair of Mike Tyson-signed gloves and racing memorabilia from Australian Bloodstock will also feature.
Organisers will be hoping there will be plenty of people there with deep pockets.
Knights star Nathan Ross hired a photographer and told his partner Nikea Jones he needed her and their two young kids Ziah and Willow to be in a photo shoot with him for the Newcastle Herald at King Edward Park.
It was only after all the shots were taken and he got down on one knee to propose last week that Ross let Nikea in on the ruse.
She still said yes.
Our spies tell us sacked Knights utility Dylan Phythian has been to a few Lakes United training sessions but he is yet to be registered.