Jake Clifford's dumping from the North Queensland Cowboys' 17-man squad to meet the Sharks today has prompted Knights fans to this week question whether the club has signed a 'dud' halfback for the next two seasons.
Clifford, who signed with the Knights for 2022 and 2023 back in November, has hardly set the world on fire in Townsville this season but the same could be said for a host of Cowboys players following their winless start to 2021 under new coach Todd Payten.
The Knights see Clifford as the man to eventually take over the No.7 jersey from Mitchell Pearce but his critics argue he will need a dramatic improvement if that is to ever happen.
Two people who aren't concerned at all about Clifford's form are Knights coach Adam O'Brien and the man who signed him, Knights' head of recruitment Clint Zammit.
O'Brien told us he is very confident in Clifford's ability.
"He's not even here yet so I don't know why any of our fans are worried," he said. "It's never easy for a young halfback when your team is not winning."
Zammit claimed fans should wait until the middle of next year before making any sort of judgement on his talents.
"The kid can play, don't worry about that - he's no dud," Zammit told us. "To be fair on him, judge him after he's been here for half a season and had the opportunity to work alongside Pearcey and Greeny [Blake Green]."
At the same time, Zammit also rubbished a report that claimed Clifford wanted to backflip on the Knights' deal so that he could stay at the Cowboys.
"Not true at all - truth is the Cowboys wanted him to back-flip on the deal but he was never going to," Zammit said."
Knights snare Eagle
Manly is going bad enough without Newcastle laying the slipper in while they are down.
But that's exactly what's happened with the Knights sneaking under their guard to pinch one of the Eagles most promising young players. Given the history between the two clubs, Knights fans will just love that.
The Knights have snared 19-year-old centre/five-eighth Krystian Mapapalangi, one of the stars of Manly's unbeaten S G Ball side, for the next two seasons.
It's a big get. Mapapalangi is widely regarded as one of the best players in the competition and could be ready for an NRL debut as early as next season.
Recruitment boss Clint Zammit confirmed Mapapalangi will link with the Knights, describing him as a "special kid".
"He's big, he's quick and he's aggressive with all the skills," he said. "Manly were desperate to keep him but he's coming to us for the opportunity. He's going to be a really good signing for us."
Mapapalangi will join the Knights as soon as his S G Ball commitments with the Eagles are completed in the coming weeks and will play out the season with the club in the NSW Cup.
No-one is watching how the NRL handles its investigation into players breaching bio-security rules at Wednesday's fight-night in Newcastle more closely than the Knights.
NRL players James Roberts and Will Smith have been allowed to play this weekend but are still being investigated for attending the fight despite the regulations.
Souths pair Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were also there but had masks on after apparently getting a dispensation from the NRL.
Several Knights players including Bradman Best, who had a sauna with boxer Tim Tszyu on the morning of the fight, were going, as was coach Adam O'Brien, a big boxing fan.
But all that changed following the directive from the NRL and none of them attended. Presumably, they all would have been happy to wear a mask too if told they could.
No doubt the Knights haven't forgotten Best was suspended last season by the NRL for visiting his mum on the Central Coast, something he believed was permitted at the time.
Boxing promoter praises fans
After Wednesday night, Tim Tszyu would no doubt love to fight again in 'Tszyucastle' and you can bet his manager Glen Jennings, a local who promotes the Hunter everywhere, will be pushing for it too.
Even the man who decides where Tszyu fights, promoter Matt Rose, wants to come back here. But will it be viable? He says stadium fights are "risky" but he hasn't ruled MJ Stadium out.
"I'm not ruling anything up there out," Rose told us. "It was an unbelievable night and people are telling me there has never been an atmosphere like it in boxing history in Australian. I can't thank the Newcastle fans enough."
DSaf leads the way
Origin prop Daniel Saifiti has jumped to outright lead in our Knights' Player of the Year standings after three rounds after his performance in the side's disappointing 24-20 loss to the West Tigers last Sunday.
Saifiti picked up two points after very nearly helping the Knights secure a come-from-behind win. Connor Watson, who sparked the side off the bench, was awarded three points with backrower Tyson Frizell picking up a point.
Current leader board: 5 Daniel Saifiti, 3 Bradman Best, Mitch Barnett, Connor Watson 2 Jayden Brailey 1 David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell.
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