There is no doubting big Edrick Lee's quality as a person and as a player.
Off the field, the Knights winger is one of the most popular figures among the playing group. A genuine good guy who has endured more than his fair share of personal heartache over the past few years.
On the field, it's only on the rare occasion that he hasn't played well. Tall and athletic, he's become something of a target man, particularly in the air for obvious reasons, during his two seasons in Newcastle.
His performance on debut for Queensland in November and his jubilation in scoring a crucial second half try in the decider in front of family at Suncorp Stadium somehow lessened the blow of NSW losing the series. Or it did for this Blues fan anyway.
But his latest injury leaves the club with a tough call to make on his future.
He is one of a host of players off contract at the end of the season and given his management will almost certainly be chasing Origin-type money for their client, there has to be doubts over whether the club will or should offer him a new deal.
In his two seasons in Newcastle, the luckless Lee has broken his arm twice [three broken arms all up] and played just 25 games. Now he is set to miss as much as a month of this season after fracturing a bone in his foot at pre-season training.
Lee's long, lanky limbs may have conspired against him one too many times.
Coach Adam O'Brien has already shown by off-loading Sione Mata'utia to St Helens that he is not afraid of making a tough recruitment call. You get the feeling another one may not be too far off.
The Knights will be a staggering $50,000 out of pocket after playing today's two senior trials against Melbourne Storm in Albury. And it's fair to say the relationship between the two clubs is a whole lot frostier than it was a month ago.
It all stems from the Knights' insistence last week about not traveling to Melbourne as previously agreed to take on the Storm due to Victoria's snap five-day pandemic lockdown two weeks ago.
The Knights did not want to take the risk and as a compromise, offered to instead host the game this pre-season and return the favour by traveling to Melbourne to trial next year. Storm officials wouldn't have a bar of it and came up with Albury as the alternative.
You don't have to read between the lines to realise there are some serious noses out of joint on both sides given some of the comments from down south in the past week.
Asked about the cost of 70 Knights players, footy staff and officials flying to Albury today on a chartered jet, Knights CEO Phil Gardner told us: "We won't get much change out of $50,000."
MANN'S WEDDING LEAVE PASS
After losing his mum to cancer in the off-season, Kurt Mann didn't want to miss little sister Brooke's wedding in Queensland today.
Only trouble was the big day coincided with the Knights only pre-season trial against Melbourne Storm in Albury. But without a second's thought, Knights coach Adam O'Brien handed his starting five-eighth for Newcastle's opening round clash against the Bulldogs a leave pass to be with his family.
"The boss [O'Brien] was actually pretty stern about me going to be honest,"Mann told us. "Adz knew it was pretty important to me and my family that I be there after we lost mum and he wasn't going to let me miss it."
Knowing Mann wouldn't be playing against the Storm, the Knights asked the NRL if they would allow him to play some minutes against Cessnock instead in last Saturday's lower grade trial. Showing a complete lack of common sense and flexibility, the answer came back no.
FAMILIAR NEW VOICE
It took a good chat with former Knights premiership-winning coach and Newcastle Triple M Knights call-team expert Michael Hagan to convince highly regarded television sports presenter Jim Callinan to get out of his comfort zone and take on the station's head rugby league calling role this season.
The former NBN sports anchor, who does such a great presenting job on Fox Sports and Sky Sports News, still lives in Newcastle and is looking forward to the "huge" challenge of calling Knights games this season as Frank Barrett's replacement.
"It's pretty daunting to be honest but I'm really chuffed to be given the opportunity," Callinan told us.
SEIBOLD A 'GENIUS"
Anthony Seibold has had a tough 12 months but the former Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney coach had no shortage of admirers after giving up his time a week ago for a coach-the-coaches session at Kurri.
Cessnock's premiership-winning coach Todd Edwards was among a small group of local coaches to take advantage of the rare opportunity to hear the thoughts of a top-level coach and came away from the Kurri Bowling Club singing the Knights coaching advisor's praises.
"He's a genius," Edwards told us. "I don't know what happened at the Broncos but whatever it was, it had nothing to do with his ability as a coach.
"He's just a great communicator, is really switched on but could talk on our wave-length when he had to as well. You've only got to listen to him to know he is just a very smart operator. You can see why Adam [O'Brien] wants him around.
"I've got no doubts he'll get another coaching gig in the NRL. It's just a matter of time."
Despite invitations going out to all clubs, surprisingly Edwards was the only local first grade coach to turn up to the coaching session that also featured Knights assistants Willie Peters, Eric Smith and Rory Kostjasyn.
"The Knights cop plenty around town for not doing enough for footy at a local level but then they put on something like this and only about 15 coaches and only one first grade bloke turn up," Edwards said.
"I thought it was pretty poor in that regard to be honest."
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