Knights legend Andrew Johns has urged the club to throw “whatever they’ve got” at Tevita Pangai Jnr to bring him back to town, believing the squad is only “a couple of quality big men” away from seriously challenging the premiership heavyweights in 2019.
Johns, who will be presented to the crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium today as one of eight Hall of Famers on Old Boys Day, believes the club is “definitely on the way up” and had Mitchell Pearce not missed a chunk of the season through injury, the Knights may well be playing finals footy next weekend.
“If Mitchell had played every game, I think they’d be thereabouts as far as the finals go,”Johns said.
“But they are definitely on the way up. You can see that with their recruiting and the players they have and are developing.
“Jesse Ramien is going to be a great buy. He’s just a great prospect and Edrick Lee has had a real good season so they will both add plenty out wide.
“[Tim] Glasby is your reliable play two frontrower but you still need that big man rolling forward – a Webcke, Lazarus-type. They are missing a couple of quality big men in the middle but unfortunately, there are not too many of them around.”
With suggestions Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett won’t be at the Broncos next season, Pangai Jnr has been doing the rounds of rival clubs and met with Knights officials in Newcastle on Thursday night.
Privately, the Knights believe the Sydney Roosters have been shopping Dylan Napa around to make room for Pangai Jnr while Canberra is also in the picture.
“It would be great if he came back home,” Johns said.
“You can see he is on the up and up. Every time he runs the ball, he near breaks the line. He’s got a good off-load and footwork. He’d be a great signing.”
Johns said the Knights chances in 2019 will largely hinge on keeping Pearce and Kalyn Ponga healthy.
“Mitchell loves it up there and is getting to that age as a halfback where it all starts to slow down. His next three or four years are going to be his best,”Johns said.
“Kalyn – well he is just out of this world whether he plays fullback or five-eighth and if he and Mitchell play the majority of games, the side will be right up there. The next few years with him and Mitchell together – it’s pretty exciting.”
Another piece of the Knights coaching staff recruitment puzzle is in place with Townsville Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf signing on to replace Mick Potter as assistant coach next season.
The Knights will pay tribute to retiring props Chris Heighington and Jacob Lillyman after the clash against the Dragons today at McDonald Jones Stadium as well as officially farewelling Bulldogs-bound youngsters Jack Cogger and Nick Meaney.
We understand two other players leaving the club, Brock Lamb and Pat Mata’utia, will also be acknowledged by the club at next Wednesday night’s Knights’ Awards presentation at NEX.
Lamb is headed to the Sydney Roosters while we’re told Mata’utia and his brother Chanel have been approached about a package deal to go to Wests Rosellas next season. Chanel played at Cessnock this season but won’t be at the Goannas in 2019.
Injury will rob Lillyman of a farewell game against the Dragons today.
The Knights went hard for Jack Bird before he signed with Brisbane this season but he won’t be on their radar if the Broncos grant him a release at the end of the season as has been suggested. Dylan Napa is also being shopped around but there has been no interest to date from Newcastle there either.
A prior commitment will prevent Danny Buderus from attending the Knights Awards on Wednesday night to present the medal struck in his honour to the Knights’ player of the year.
Mitch Barnett took home the medal last year but Kalyn Ponga is a big favourite this year with Aidan Guerra, who hasn’t missed a game all season, the smokey.
Knights Jersey Flegg coach Todd Lowrie has praised the remarkable courage of young prop Henry-Siriah Fuimaono, whose rugby league career is under a cloud after he broke his neck against the Panthers a fortnight ago.
Fuimaono is currently back with his family at their Western Sydney home, getting around in a Halo brace after it was discovered he had broken bones in his neck during the game.
“He complained of a sore neck but stayed out and defended another three sets before coming off with it,”Lowrie said.
“He went to Nepean Hospital to get it checked out and that’s where they discovered he had broken his neck.
“He’s in a brace but we are not sure about his future yet.”
If you would have got a bet on at the start of the season that Ken Sio would finish the year as the Knights’ leading try-scorer and pointscorer, you’d be pocketing a tidy sum right now.
For a player considered by most as just a solid back-up winger, Sio has had a strong season but that hasn’t translated into a new contract offer from the club as yet.
St George Illawarra have made inquiries but we’re told he is still in the Knights plans and Sio is keen to remain in Newcastle.
A big shout out to the Northern NSW Football board for showing some commonsense this week to get rid of the ridiculous policy of not permitting the use of video evidence for instances of foul play at judicial hearings.
The fact that the policy was thrown out, smack bang in the middle of the Newcastle Premier League finals series and not at the end of the season, shows how strongly directors felt about the issue.
Under fire earlier in the season when the use of video replays was raised by its clubs, Northern CEO David Eland defended the policy by telling colleague Craig Kerry that “BarTV is using one camera from one angle and I think it’s very dangerous territory to start relying on that to make decisions.”
But after a torrent of publicity, the board clearly feels, like just about everyone else in the game, that if clear footage of an incident exists, surely it should be presented as evidence.
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