Outside backs Tyronne Roberts-Davis and Matt Soper-Lawler are set to go head-to-head in a virtual shootout for a Newcastle Knights contract over the next fortnight starting with the NRL Nines in Perth on Friday night.
Newcastle has three positions left in their top 30 roster for this season with two of those spots needing to be filled by the time the premiership kicks off next month. The final position doesn't have to be finalised until June 30.
Coach Adam O'Brien has indicated at least one of the roster vacancies will go to an outside back with trialists Roberts-Davis and Soper-Lawler in the box seat to potentially land a contract after spending the pre-season training with the club.
There seems little doubt their performances at the Nines and in up-coming trials against St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters will almost certainly have a major bearing on who gets the nod.
Former Gold Coast Titan, Roberts-Davis is understood to have his nose in front at this stage because he already has NRL experience and is more versatile. He can play either centre, wing or fullback and has been training in all thee positions.
Soper-Lawler, a Maitland junior who has spent the past three seasons in the Queensland Cup, is more of a try-scoring winger who is certain to relish the open space that Nines footy presents if he is given an opportunity. Both players have indicated they are keen to play NSW Cup with the Knights even if a contract doesn't materialise.
Soper-Lawler admits he wasn't expecting a Nines call-up but is grateful for the opportunity.
"I'm excited - we've got a really good young squad that's going to be pretty fast and pretty fit so really looking forward to it," he said.
"I'm expecting the Nines to be very quick, not much space and a lot of one-on-ones and a lot of chances for the boys to use their speed and skill-set. It's a really good opportunity for all the boys - all the train and trial boys and all the boys with development contracts - to put their best foot forward and show what they can do."
No-one recognises the importance to his career of the next couple of weeks more than Soper-Lawler.
"I'm not getting any younger, I'm 23 now and I've got to really put my best efforts in for the next couple of weeks and see what happens from there," he said.
"If there is no contract, I'll try and play NSW Cup here and if that doesn't work out, I'll look at a plan C. But this is plan A at the moment and that's all I'm really worried about."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN NEWS TODAY
- Stockton carnage tipped to worsen later this week
- Did you feel the earthquake at Muswellbrook?
- Police arrest a man on King Street after allegedly uncovering drugs, a weapon and cash
- Hunter councils take different approaches to recycling disruption
- Hunter recycling going to Sydney after Gateshead processing plant closes