BARRY TOOHEY: Sporting column -Toohey's News

Levi stuns coach with release request

A clearly frustrated Newcastle Knights hooker Danny Levi walked into Nathan Brown’s office early last week and stunned the coach by asking for a release from his contract.

Not surprisingly, his request was denied.

Despite his struggles this season behind in-form hooker Slade Griffin, Brown and head of football Darren Mooney still regard Levi as an important part of the club moving forward.

So they weren’t about to give him a free pass to leave.

Danny Levi makes a tackle last night.

Danny Levi makes a tackle last night.

The Kiwi Test hooker has another two years to run on his contract but has been clearly feeling the pinch, particularly with Griffin going gang-busters since his arrival from Melbourne this season.

Prior to last night’s clash against Penrith, Levi had only played two games in the top grade, both off the bench. The rest have been in NSW Cup, where the Knights are coming last.

Levi’s manager Mario Tartak told this column last week a couple of rival clubs had made inquiries about the hooker but he wasn’t going anywhere.

Brown confirmed the meeting with Levi had taken place when we put the story to him.

“It's true he came in to see us. But its a simple case of Danny not being happy with playing reserve grade and nothing more than that," Brown said.

“That’s actually a good thing. We don’t want any of our players being happy with playing reserve grade.”

Brown denied Levi was only back in the top grade last night against the Panthers to appease him because of his request.

“Not true. Moons [Mooney] and I went down and watched our Cup side play Wyong last Saturday and Danny played very well along with Josh King,” Brown said.

“That’s the reason he and Josh were picked."

Manly in futile play for Lamb

We hear Manly has had another crack at getting Brock Lamb out of the Knights and down to Brookvale before June 30.

There have even been suggestions Lamb met with Eagles coach Trent Barrett a few weeks back over a potential move if the club could get their salary cap mess sorted.

Brock Lamb

Brock Lamb

Problem for an increasingly desperate Manly is the Knights have no intention of letting him go and have told his manager exactly that. 

Kade ends playing exile

He was forced to bring down the curtain on his playing career back in 2016 because of a neck injury.

But clearly, former Knights prop Kade Snowden has struggled with life after footy.

So much so, he has come out of forced retirement and has pulled on the boots again.

Kade Snowden

Kade Snowden

After coaching Belmont South in the Newcastle and Hunter A grade competition last year, Snowden is leading from the front on the field this season.

Not surprisingly, he has been a huge influence with his side winning the pre-season competition and currently two from two and joint leaders with Dora Creek. 

Greenberg on collision course

If social media is anything to go by, NRL boss Todd Greenberg is kidding himself if he thinks Knights fans and the club are happy regularly playing games at home on a Friday night at 6pm.

Greenberg copped plenty of flak from fans after he suggested on Triple M on Thursday the dreaded time-slot was popular in markets like Newcastle, where traffic is not such a big issue after work.

Todd Greenberg

Todd Greenberg

Knights boss Phil Gardner also voiced his concerns with colleague Robert Dillon about the club being “penalised” in future for attracting good crowds for the early Friday night game.

Another downside for playing early on Friday nights that gets up the nose of many fans is they pay good money for memberships and seats but only get to see one game.

New contract all but done

We are hearing an announcement about a new contract extension for Knights coach Nathan Brown is imminent.

The unique new deal will be open-ended with no finishing date, something that will create plenty of interest in NRL circles with other clubs likely to follow Newcastle’s lead in the future.

Beaten Jets big win for Wests

They might have lost the A-League grand final but the Newcastle Jets delivered a massive win for nearby Wests Leagues Club at New Lambton.

Wests CEO Phil Gardner said he could not remember a bigger roll-up at the club with many supporters marching from Wests to the stadium for the game. 

"I haven't seen that level of a crowd in the club, ever," Gardner said. "Not even when the Knights won their grand finals.

"We had 1000 of them up in the auditorium and there were people pumping in through the doors. That was the beauty of having a grand final here in Newcastle."

Jobe battles chronic ankle

Lambton Jaffas star Jobe Wheelhouse has shown enormous courage in the past just to get on the field in the Newcastle Premier League despite being plagued by a chronic ankle injury.

The former Jets captain played in last season’s finals series with an undetected fracture in his ankle before having surgery in the off-season but he has played just 100 minutes of football this season.

Jobe Wheelhouse [right]

Jobe Wheelhouse [right]

The ankle is still giving him major problems and there are genuine fears about his playing future after he pulled out of last weekend’s game against Jets Youth in the warm-up.

Sacked Phythian a Dragon?

Don’t be surprised if sacked Knights utility Dylan Phythian ends up at the St George Illawarra Dragons this season.

Phythian met with Paul “Mary” McGregor in Sydney yesterday with the Dragons coach understood to have offered him an incentive  deal to train with the fulltime squad and play NSW Cup when his suspension expires.

Phythian was shown the door by the Knights in March after failing two separate drug tests.

Dylan Phythian

Dylan Phythian

The second strike earned him an automatic 12 week suspension by the NRL that has left him in limbo.

Former player on rebound?

We keep hearing a prominent local league player who is no longer playing in the Newcastle competition will be back in the fold before June 30 in a major boost to his former club.