HE is their leading tryscorer and played a major role in last week’s win against Penrith, but will that be enough for Ken Sio to earn a new contract with the Newcastle Knights?
Sio, the quiet achiever on Newcastle’s left wing, has notched a team-high 10 tries for the season, including a spectacular, acrobatic, one-handed effort against the Panthers.
He then converted from the sideline to give the Knights a 14-point buffer, which ultimately proved crucial in Newcastle’s 20-12 victory.
The 27-year-old has publicly stated that he wants to stay in Newcastle but, while negotiations are ongoing, Knights officials have been non-committal.
“We’re still considering our options and how he would fit into our top 30 [players], but we haven’t ruled it out,” one source told the Newcastle Herald when asked about Sio’s retention prospects.
“He’s certainly playing some good footy.”
Sio’s future has been complicated by Newcastle’s decision to decision to sign Edrick Lee from Cronulla to a three-year contract, starting next season.
“It would be awesome to stay, but it’s with my manager and I’m sure we’ll get an update sooner or later,” Sio said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Sio said the signing of Lee, who has scored nine tries in 14 games for the Sharks this season, would “help with our depth and be good for the club”.
Sio’s try against the Panthers took him to a career tally of 52 in his 96 NRL games for Parramatta and Newcastle, at a respectable 54.1 per cent strike rate.
He joked that there was “a bit of competition” between himself and back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon (nine tries) to finish as Newcastle’s top try merchant in 2018.
“I hardly got any tries [five] last year, so it’s been a good year for me,” he said. “I’m stoked with 10.
“Fitzy is also right up there and there’s still two more games after this, so you never know how it will go.
“I’ll just be trying to finish off all the opportunities the boys present for me.”
Sio said his one-handed touchdown against Penrith, inches from the sideline, was a combination of practice, natural instinct and “a bit of confidence”. “You’re looking to finish it off and stay in, but then also you can’t see the sideline as well,” he said.
“There’s some spectacular finishers in the game now, who know when to jump.
“It’s just a matter of timing it.”
As for his sideline conversion, Sio said it was especially satisfying in the circumstances.
“The first half, the wind was really blowing a gale, so it was tough conditions for kickers,” he said.
“So when I got that kick near the end, I just took that extra second to focus and get my process right.
“When it left the boot, it felt good and I looked up and it was dead straight.
“I was pretty happy it went over, because it gave us that extra bit of breathing space.”
Meanwhile, Knights dynamo Kalyn Ponga is a likely candidate to appear in the inaugural New Zealand Maori All Stars team, who will clash with the Indigenous All Stars in Melbourne in February.
The NRL announced on Monday the Maori team would replace the World All Stars.
Ponga was born in Australia but spent part of his childhood in New Zealand, his parents’ homeland.
He was named last October in the Maori team to play against the New Zealand Residents, only to withdraw because of a shoulder injury.
Having pondered making himself available for the Kiwis, he instead aligned himself with Australia and made his senior representative debut for Queensland in Origin II this year.
Others in contention for the Maori All Stars include Shaun Johnson, Valentine Holmes, Issac Luke, Jesse Bromwich and James Tamou.