Shaun Kenny-Dowall is the highest profile Newcastle Knights player off contract at the end of next season.
But while his longer term future is yet to be decided, his immediate value to the club was borne out earlier this week when coach Nathan Brown knocked back an approach for the big winger from a rival club.
St George Illawarra officials made overtures to the Knights about an immediate trade involving Kenny-Dowall and Dragons utility and Newcastle recruitment target Kurt Mann.
Brown wants Mann at the club to play hooker next season but wasn’t about to let SKD go to make it happen.
The coach did speak to his winger about it and was told he didn’t want to leave Newcastle anyway. Case closed.
While he cops plenty of stick whenever he makes the odd clanger, SKD didn’t miss a game last season and by our reckoning, was in the top five best players for the Knights during the season.
But just because the trade didn’t happen doesn’t mean the club is resigned to missing out on Mann.
The inside word is the Knights remain cautiously optimistic of signing him to a three year deal but it just might take a little longer now that the Jarryd Hayne negotiations with the Dragons are dead and they are still looking for another outside back.
Mann wants a release to rejoin the Knights, the club he left as a teenager a few years ago when Melbourne came knocking.
He is said to be keen to make a fulltime switch to hooker and the indication was the Dragons were unlikely to stand in his way if he got a longer term offer elsewhere to secure his future provided they could find a replacement.
Uneasy hook up
Does Danny Levi want out or do the Knights want him out? Or is it, as we suspect, a bit of both.
Whatever the case, the continued speculation surrounding the hooker’s future at the club is not about to go away anytime soon.
As it stands, Levi, who has two more years to run on his $350,000 a season contract, is going nowhere despite reportedly having had some interest from Wests Tigers.
With only rookie Zac Woolford and part-timer Jamie Buhrer on their books, the Knights don’t have the hooking depth to let Levi go.
And even if Mann signs, it’s hard to fathom coach Brown allowing Levi to walk without first seeing if the Dragons utility can make a good fist of the hooking role, a position he has never played in the past.
In the end, it may well come down to Levi and whether he is willing to stay and fight for his spot. If he’s not, Brown will cut him loose and may then have another look at ex-Sharks hooker James Segeyaro.
Kalyn’s hot lap
It takes quite a bit to excite laid-back Knights playmaker Kalyn Ponga and take him out of his comfort zone.
Not even being thrown into the State of Origin cauldron off the bench for the Maroons last season left him nervous or uneasy.
But it’s fair to say the young superstar has a new appreciation of the skills of our best V8 Supercar drivers after being treated to a hot lap around the Newcastle 500 circuit yesterday by Ford’s Chaz Mostert.
Ponga will be back trackside today along with teammates Mitchell Pearce, Aidan Guerra, Connor Watson and Jamie Buhrer, coach Nathan Brown and club CEO Phil Gardner to watch as the Supercars’ title race between Ford’s series leader Scott McLaughlin and Holden’s Shane van Gisbergen goes down to the wire.
Yates to Broncos
Former Knight Luke Yates has backed himself to make a big impression in his first year in the English Super League next season by signing a one year deal with the London Broncos.
We’re told the Broncos were keen to nail down Yates for a longer period but the big-hitting backrower wants to keep his own options open just in case a bigger English club or the NRL come knocking at the end of next season.
Yates was squeezed out by the Knights at the end of last season but has attended a few pre-season training sessions to keep up his fitness with coach Nathan Brown played a role in getting him a start in England.
Gavet’s superstar family
Playing in the NRL engine-room is no small feat but new Knights frontrow recruit James Gavet reckons his sporting achievements don’t exactly stack up when they are compared to his extended family.
Gavet has All Blacks representatives on his half sister’s side but there is also plenty of talent in his wife Gabriella’s family.
Gavet’s brother-in-law is Oklahoma City Thunder NBA star Steven Adams while his sister-in-law is Valarie Adams, New Zealand’s four-times World Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist for shot-put.
“My wife has played for the junior New Zealand basketball team and she has three older brothers that played for the Tall Blacks,” he told us.
“They are all obviously very well known back home in New Zealand and world-wide to be honest.”
Everyone is excepting the Wayne Bennett-Anthony Seibold coaching swap to happen any day now but none more so than premiership-winning South Newcastle coach Ben Cross.
We’ve been told Crossy, who is now a part of Seibold’s coaching staff, has been house-hunting north of the border in recent days. His in-laws live at Redcliffe.
While on Bennett, we are hearing one of his first moves when he takes over the Bunnies will be shifting former Knight Dane Gagai from the centres to fullback.
No time like now
Former Melbourne Storm prop Tim Glasby isn’t due to start training with the Knights until Monday but hanging around waiting obviously got the better of him with the Maroons forward spotted running with the rest of the squad for the first time yesterday.
It has been a tough couple of weeks for Cessnock coach Todd Edwards.
Edwards learned last week his high profile player Paul Carter needs ankle surgery following a work accident that will keep him off the training paddock for three months. He will have the surgery on Tuesday.
Adding to the frustration is Edwards has narrowly struck out twice in attempting to lure two other ex-NRL players, Eddy Pettybourne and Jack Littlejohn, to the Goannas.