Knights officials are privately expecting Melbourne Storm and NSW Blues forward Dale Finucane to reject an offer from the club and sign a longer term and more lucrative deal with an NRL rival.
Newcastle are one of five or six clubs in the hunt for Finucane's signature but there is little optimism in the Knights camp with the Storm prop believed to be close to making a decision on his future.
It's been reported North Queensland have tabled a three-year-deal worth in excess of $1.8 million in a bid to entice him to Townsville while the Dragons, Cronulla and Gold Coast Titans are also believed to have tabled big offers.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy desperately wants Finucane to remain in Melbourne but salary cap restraints appear likely to see him move on.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien was keen to bring the Blues vice-captain to Newcastle, as much for what he would bring the club off the field in a leadership role as on it.
But the Knights haven't been prepared to budge on their offer of a two-year-deal for the 29-year-old. Financially, they are also well below some of Finucane's other tabled deals.
Meanwhile, the Knights' hopes of upsetting the Sydney Roosters on the Sunshine Coast tonight have taken a hit with prop David Klemmer ruled out because of a severe concussion suffered in the loss to Melbourne last weekend. Klemmer's place on the bench has been taken by utility Jack Johns.
Klemmer joins veteran playmaker Mitchell Pearce and centre Bradman Best on the injured list but all three are expected to return against Canberra in round 20.
O'Brien said he wasn't prepared to gamble on Pearce's slight hamstring tear suffered at training in the build-up to the Storm game.
"It's a little bit risky with Mitchell, it's low grade (hamstring) but we've got some really important games at the back end of the year and to push him could be dangerous," O'Brien said. "I'd rather be smart and play the long game."
The Knights coach is expecting a response from his players after their dismal performance against the Storm and has been bouyed by the way the team has trained this week.
"There's been a lot more intensity this week, the boys are switched on and I'm fully expecting a bounce-back effect," he said.
"There's a lot of guys there who understand we're coming into some pretty important games at the back end of the year for our future and we need guys who are playing well and consistently training well."
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