Newcastle Knights will be relying on bargain buys to fill the remaining three positions in their roster for next season with the club ruling out the possibility of making a play for a top-tier player due to salary cap restraints.
It's understood the Knights may currently have as little as $400,000 left in the cap following the signing of young ex-North Queensland Cowboys centre Enari Tuala.
That could change if unwanted hooker Danny Levi was to find a new club between now and the start of next season. His departure would free up some cap space but it is appearing more and more unlikely.
Knights director of football Brian Canavan yesterday indicated there is no room left in the cap for an established star, declaring the three roster spots remaining will be filled by players in the "lower end of our top 30". At least one of those players will be another outside back.
"We are still looking for a little bit more depth in our outside backs and that depth is to carry us through until all our good junior players come through and create that genuine competition for spots," he said.
Asked if the club could afford to bring in a $350,000 player right now, Canavan said: "No. To do that, you've got to do a lot of juggling with your salary cap and you are not allowed to do it if it puts you over the cap anyway because the NRL won't register the player.
"The three spots we have left are at the lower end of our top 30 both player-wise and money-wise."
There is a distinct possibility players currently on train-and-trial deals with the club such as Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Matt Soper-Lawler and Chris Randall could be rewarded with a contract if they impress over the pre-season.
Meanwhile, Sydney Roosters have assured the Knights that the pre-season trial between the two sides next February will be a full-blown hit-out leading into the start of the premiership despite the defending premiers taking on English Super League champions St Helens in the World Cup Challenge just seven days beforehand.
The Knights will trial against the Roosters on Saturday, February 29 at Gosford, just a week after they take on St Helens in England on February 22. Roosters officials have assured the Knights the majority of their players will be backing up.
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"We chatted to them about that and had those discussions before the trial was locked in," Canavan said.
"They are leaving England the day after the game and you virtually pick up a day coming back as well.
"They will no doubt rest their players for the remainder of that week but they've told us they will be playing them again against us that weekend."