South Sydney centre Hymel Hunt and little-known Melbourne Storm utility Scott Drinkwater are the latest players to be targeted by the Newcastle Knights as the market for potential marquee recruits for next season dries up.
The Knights haven’t given up on the possibility of snaring another big name for 2018 and will have the money to get a deal done if someone was to suddenly become available.
It will be denied but there has been dialogue, either directly or indirectly, with Bulldogs prop David Klemmer within the past fortnight.
Rival players talk to each other and there is no doubt Klemmer is disillusioned about what he is earning with two seasons left on his contract.
But with Bulldogs officials rubbishing suggestions they would even consider letting him go, Knights insiders now believe the most likely scenario is the Dogs will upgrade his contract to keep him happy.
“It is up to Klemmer to force the issue with the Bulldogs if he wants a change,” one source told this column.
That leaves the Knights still searching for players to strengthen their engine room with Jacob Lillyman retiring and Chris Heighington tipped to follow suit.
Word is the club is not currently negotiating with any new middle forwards at this stage.
But there has been discussions over Hunt and Drinkwater with the club expected to bring both players to Newcastle for a look around within the next fortnight.
Hunt, who has been at the Bunnies for the past few seasons, is being looked at to fill a centre/wing role and provide more outside backs depth.
Drinkwater, 21, currently at Melbourne, is a five-eighth or fullback who is yet to make his NRL debut, instead playing for Storm feeder club Brisbane Easts in the Queensland Cup.
He has already knocked back an offer from the Bulldogs and is sitting on a new two-year deal that has been offered by the Storm.
But Drinkwater is a Terrigal Sharks junior and both he and his partner’s family are from the Central Coast, which may be the ace up the Knights sleeve.
There can be no questioning Kalyn Ponga’s dedication and passion for the game.
The young fullback was down in the dumps on Tuesday when he rolled his ankle at training and it “blew up” badly afterwards, leaving those who saw it giving him no chance of playing against the Cowboys on Friday night. But Ponga and Knights medical guru Tony Ayoub were determined to give it every possible chance and Ponga slept at Ayoub’s place that night so he could receive around the clock treatment every hour. It paid off.
It doesn’t always pay to hold out for more money unless you are supremely confident your form and confidence won’t deteriorate over the course of a season.
Just ask poor Brock Lamb.
If you talk to people in the know, the Knights playmaker’s true value has more than halved since the start of the season when the Knights knocked back a rather ambitious asking price from his manager.
Now, after playing most of the season in NSW Cup, there is only lukewarm interest from elsewhere and his management are back talking to the Knights on drastically reduced terms.
Home sweet home
Mitchell Pearce has made no secret of his love of the Newcastle lifestyle and, after renting at Cooks Hill since he arrived in town last November, he has just purchased a house in Merewether with his partner Zoe Grant.
Surprisingly, given his ties to Bondi while at the Roosters, Pearce is no surfer but he might find himself having to learn now that he will be a Merewether local.
Cessnock may have a job on their hands retaining high-profile signing Paul Carter next season.
The mail is Carter, currently serving a five-game suspension for abusing a referee, is moving to live at Adamstown with his pregnant partner Elise Horscroft – opening the door for a Newcastle-based rival club to sign him for 2019.
Woolf at the door
The coach who had a major hand in Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita pledging their allegiance to Tonga at international level is in the sights of the Newcastle Knights.
Current Townsville Blackhawks and Tongan coach Kristian Woolf has been approached about a move to Newcastle to join the Knights coaching staff under Nathan Brown.
It follows the club’s unsuccessful attempt to lure Jason Ryles from the Melbourne Storm.
The Knights are desperate to bring in a defensive-style coach for next season with popular current assistant Mick Potter reportedly set to be the one to make way.
Woolf has plenty of runs on the board.
He coached the Cowboys NYC team to the grandfinal in 2009 and was Anthony Griffin’s NRL assistant coach at the Broncos from 2012 until taking on the Blackhawks job in 2015.
The side currently leads the Queensland Cup competition.
Woolf was appointed Tongan head coach in 2014 and has been at the helm as they emerged as a major international force over the past couple of seasons as several stars, including Taumalolo and Fifita, turned their back on the Kiwis and Kangaroos to pledge allegience.
Barney’s big day
A host of Knights players will converge on the picturesque mid-north coast village of Harrington in early November when tough backrower Mitch Barnett ties the knot with his fiance Clare Crossingham.
Suited up in Barnett’s wedding party on the day will be close mates Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Daniel Saifiti.
Edwards the pea
Lakes United coach Todd Edwards will be hoping his side can do a number on Cessnock at Cahill Oval tomorrow and end their finals’ hopes as the premiership-leading Seagulls continue their quest for the Real NRL minor premiership.
But it will be a different story next season.
Lakes have already reluctantly granted Edwards a release from the final year of his contract next year and while not official yet, it it a fait accompli he will be the Goannas’ coach in 2019.
Lakes have spoken to Rick Stone but have advertised all their coaching positions.