He won’t generate the level of fan interest that Brisbane Broncos powerhouse Tevita Pangai Jnr has done but seasoned Parramatta prop Siosaia Vave could be a far more realistic target for the Newcastle Knights.
Little more than a week after Pangai Jnr was in town for a meeting with club officials, Vave and his partner were at Knights headquarters yesterday and held discussions with coach Nathan Brown.
We understand the club potentially has seven recruitment spots to fill for 2019 with three of those to be middle forwards.
It is not clear if the Knights have made an offer or are in the process of making one but in the same week skipper Mitchell Pearce called on the club to “beef up” the forward pack for next season, the 120 kg Vave certainly fits the bill.
At 29, Vave has played more than 100 NRL games at the Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne, Manly and Parramatta but was told earlier this week by the Eels he won’t be offered a new contract for next season after two years at the club.
He spent two seasons at the Storm in 2012 and 2013 with injury robbing him of a grandfinal ring in his first season in Melbourne.
The big negative surrounding Vave has always been his big appetite and resulting weight issues that have hampered his career but he is a big body and there is no question the Knights need some big bodies next season if they are to be seriously competitive.
Bulldogs halfback Matt Frawley pumped up his own tyres during the week about an approach from the Knights but he is not their number one halves target.
We’ve been told Nathan Brown has his eyes on Warriors five-eighth Mason Lino despite the skillful playmaker still being under contract next season.
The mail is the Warriors may be prepared to let Lino go if he was happy to leave and could get a two year deal elsewhere so it won’t be a surprise if the Knights make a serious play for him in the next few weeks.
Frawley remains in the picture but there is no guarantee he will get an offer at this stage.
On the case
Incoming Knights assistant coach Kristian Woolf could be a handy asset in the club’s bid to entice Tevita Pangai Jnr south.
Woolf is the Tongan coach and will no doubt be seconded to get in the Broncos forward’s ear about joining him in Newcastle at some stage in the future when they join forces next month for the Test against Australia.
Close mate Sione Mata’utia will no doubt also have a role to play while Pangai stayed overnight at Luke Yates’s place when he was in town last week.
He is the current Kiwi Test hooker and probably holds the key to the Warriors premiership hopes.
But it seems highly unlikely the Knights will attempt to lure Issac Luke back across the Tasman.
Luke remains unsigned for next season and has held talks with Newcastle but there are whispers he needs a shoulder reconstruction which has apparently spooked the Knights.
The fact that he has been on the radar suggests the club is looking to sign another hooker with a cloud still hanging over Slade Griffin after his fourth knee reconstruction.
Good guy Guerra
Dylan Fry has been one of the feel good yarns around the Knights this season with the young bloke, who has learning difficulties, helping out at training after a local company that looks after challenged kids approached the club.
In the dressing room after the Knights final game last weekend, backrower Aidan Guerra presented Dylan with the jumper he wore against the Dragons.
All Black Brown
Knights officials have given Nathan Brown a leave pass next week with the coach to spend a week in camp with the New Zealand All Blacks.
Brown has not publicised the trip but a club insider told us he will have access to the All Blacks inner sanctum as they prepare for next Saturday’s Test against South Africa in Wellington.
When inspiring Knights legend Mark Hughes took to the stage on Wednesday at the Newcastle Knights awards night to announce long-serving team manager John Thomas as the clubman of the year, the biggest surprise was that he’d never won the gong before.
Thommo is an institution at the club and a great survivor, having worked at the Knights since 1991, riding all the massive highs and the rock bottom lows.
He was rewarded for his efforts with life membership back in 2010 and was over the moon to be recognised again by the club in front of a packed house at NEX during the week.
We’re told he was a very popular choice among the playing group and staff when all associated with the club were asked their thoughts on who should win the award.
Back in the black
There were plenty of questions being asked about the direction of the Newcastle Jockey Club last year when the club announced a loss of more than $1 million for the 2016-17 financial year.
While track maintenance issues, the controversial rebranding of the organisation and one-off infrastructure charges were largely blamed for the poor result, there was plenty of finger pointing with staff cuts and other cost cutting implemented in a bid to turn things around.
The result for CEO Matt Benson and his board is a much healthier financial position this year with the club back in the black to the tune of $613,756.
Pulling a crowd
Northern soccer officials are leaving no stone unturned in a bid to draw a crowd to today’s Newcastle Premier League grandfinals at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Federation reportedly lost more than $25,000 when just 4174 fans turned up last year at Newcastle’s premier sporting venue to see Jaffas beat Edgeworth 2-0 after extra time.
As well as bringing the start of the first grade clash between Edgeworth and Broadmeadow forward to 6 pm tonight and delaying presentations of the earlier games to keep people at the ground longer, we’re told the Federation has given out 16 free tickets to every winning team across all the inter district competitions in a bid to try and boost numbers.