Teenage star Bradman Best is about to become the Newcastle Knights' longest signed player with the boom centre poised to agree to an upgraded contract that will keep him at the club until at least the end of 2024.
The Newcastle Herald understands the deal, a two-year extension on his current contract that was due to expire at the end of next season, is expected to be finalised over the next couple of days and will be officially announced within the next week.
He will join fullback Kalyn Ponga as the only player signed beyond 2023, although Ponga has options in his favour in the final two years of his deal and could potentially depart at the end of 2022.
Seven other players - David Klemmer, Mitch Barnett, Tyson Frizell, Starford To'a, newly-signed Jake Clifford and English teenagers, Bailey Hodgson and Dominic Young - are currently signed until the end of 2023.
Best's decision to extend his deal early and ignore the opportunity to wait until November to test his value on the open market is a massive boost for the Knights and a huge vote of confidence in coach Adam O'Brien and the direction he is taking the club.
Rated one of the game's most outstanding young talents, Best would have had clubs falling over themselves at the end of this year to try and prise him away from the Knights had he not been so committed to staying. That's despite the string of injuries that have hampered his career to date.
After debuting at the end of 2019, ankle and foot problems that required two separate operations restricted him to just 11 games last season but he still managed to cross for eight tries.
His importance to the club has never been kept a secret. Before a ball was kicked in 2020, Knights CEO Phil Gardner publicly claimed he would sign the powerhouse centre to a "life-time" contract if it was possible.
Best, along with halfback and former skipper Mitchell Pearce, have been the two priority re-signings over the off-season with a host of other players also coming off contract.
The Knights moved a step closer to securing Pearce on a new one-year deal after a meeting with his advisor Tristan Hay last week.
Knights head of recruitment Clint Zammit said the prospect of Best extending his contract was great news for the club.
"He's been at the club for a long time now, is a local kid and obviously one of the real rising stars of the NRL so to have him commit for a longer term is something we have been working hard on,"Zammit said.
"The big thing is he really wants to stay and obviously we want him to stay so it is going to hopefully be a good outcome for all of us."
Best admitted early last month in an interview with the Herald he wasn't interested in going elsewhere.
"The club has been really good to me and they have come to my manager and said they are pretty keen on extending. They are looking at me long term and I'm excited about that," he said at the time.
"That would be pretty special - to be a one club man - and like I said, the club has really looked after me."
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