Newcastle are prepared to dangle a rich new deal of up to four years in front of Jesse Ramien in a bid to lure him back to the club.
Just weeks after parting with the star centre, the Herald can reveal the Knights are keen for him to return following the departure of coach Nathan Brown. A comeback would be a stunning turnaround given Ramien left because he felt he was underpaid and wasn't receiving enough quality football to fully showcase his skills.
Ramien's future remains unclear after he knocked back offers from Cronulla and North Queensland. While Cronulla are hopeful of tempting Ramien back to the Shire, the interest from Newcastle could result in an altogether different return.
"If Jesse wants to talk to us, we'd certainly be happy to discuss an upgrade and extension," Newcastle chief executive Philip Gardner said.
"Certainly we were very disappointed Jesse went. Jesse is a fine young man and player. He had family in the region and that's the reason he came to us in the first place.
"He was unhappy with where his contract sat and it was certainly my intention to renegotiate that with an upgrade and extension with us. If he wanted to come back and talk to us, we'd be very happy to talk to him."
Brown's departure has given the club a reset and Gardner hopes Ramien could be amenable to a return under his successor, likely to be Roosters assistant Adam O'Brien.
"He is a very good young man, well thought of by his teammates," Gardner said.
"The issue that he had ... those things happen. I wish I'd handled that differently at the time, to be honest. If he'd like to have a conversation with us, we'd only be too happy to have that conversation with him. When we announce our new coach, whoever it will be, I'm sure the coach would like to be involved in that discussion as well."
It is understood the Knights are prepared to table a new, four-season deal that is considerably higher than the one Ramien accepted just a year ago. "We'd certainly have that discussion with Jesse," Gardner said. "We know he is talking to a lot of other clubs; a lot of clubs are interested in him."
In another intriguing development, Newcastle are considering approaching the likes of Tim Sheens, Michael Hagan or Allan Bell as they consider creating a new role of technical director as support for the Brown's replacement.
"Matty Johns is on the record saying we should look at the likes of a Tim Sheens to assist if we're to have a head coach who has not coached at NRL level before," Gardner said.
"We're discussing that with the people coming in. If not Tim, we're looking at Allan Bell or Michael Hagan, someone of that nature to provide a mentoring or support system.
"The community want to see that sort of thing. Even if we brought Tim in in a consultancy type role for six months, [like] the role Mal [Meninga] has with the Titans on the Gold Coast.
"It will come down to what the head coach wants, his coaching team and how they see it because the most important person in any rugby league club is the head coach."
The Newcastle hierarchy has sounded out Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and South Sydney powerbroker Shane Richardson as part of their process of reference checking potential coaching candidates.
"We've checked all of these people out with Richo and Craig," Gardner said. "They were extremely generous with their time. No one has more knowledge than those two guys and they certainly put us in the right frame for a decision.
"The decision we make, hopefully next week, will reflect the views of Craig and Richo."