RUGGED prop James Gavet is the latest Newcastle Knight rumoured to have attracted the interest of rival clubs, despite being contracted for next season.
There has been speculation this week that Gavet, who joined Newcastle at the end of last season after stints with Canterbury, Wests Tigers, Brisbane and the Warriors, is a target for English Super League outfits.
The Herald understands that his manager, Tyran Smith, has not yet sought formal permission from Knights officials to explore other options.
Gavet has another year to run on his deal with Newcastle, but so too do Kiwi internationals Danny Levi and Herman Ese'ese, who have been assured they will be released early if they can find suitable employment elsewhere.
Ese'ese is understood to be close to signing with Canterbury, while Levi has been linked to a number of clubs but may yet opt to stay in Newcastle, even after the club announced recently the signing of Jayden Brailey from Cronulla.
Gavet has played 18 games for Newcastle this season before suffering a hamstring injury, which ruled him out of last week's 20-14 loss to Parramatta and will again sideline him on Saturday when the Knights host North Queensland Cowboys.
The 29-year-old Samoan international has played in 74 top-grade games since debuting for the Bulldogs in 2012.
Meanwhile, Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga said he laughed when he read last week that his agent would be seeking an unprecedented $1.5 million a season for his next contract.
"I haven't spoken about any of that, so I was probably just as shocked as what you guys were," he said.
"I don't know how you define someone worth $1.5 million. What do you reckon?"
Ponga, who has two years remaining on his Newcastle contract, plus an option in his favour for 2022, said any negotiations about extending his tenure could wait.
"I just want to focus on this week, especially now when it's make or break," he said.
"There's nothing really else to focus on. I can't really focus on next year or the year after or the year after that, because we've only got four weeks left."
Ponga was bemused by criticism on social media of his post-match mood after the loss to Parramatta, when some fans felt he did not show enough disappointment.
"For me, if I'm training hard and playing hard and giving it my all, if I smile for two or three minutes after the game with a couple of mates, I don't think that hurts," Ponga said.
"I think people know what I'm like."