Knights coach Adam O'Brien rates Dane Gagai as one of the game's best centres, with the impending signing of the Queensland Origin star giving his side some much-needed strike and experience in the outside backs next season.
Gagai is yet to officially put pen to paper on a three-year-deal to return to the Knights after four seasons at South Sydney but let the cat out of the bag late last week that he was returning to Newcastle next season.
He last featured for the Knights in 2017 and has played 128 NRL games for the club after Wayne Bennett signed him from the Broncos in 2012.
O'Brien said he could not have been more impressed after having a long conversation with Gagai during negotiations.
"For starters, I know he is coming back here for all the right reasons," O'Brien said.
"He was just so good to talk to about not just the Knights, but Newcastle itself and the people that would turn up when they were losing and winning wooden spoons.
"He's got a deep affinity for the club and the region and the fans. He spoke about the fans a lot so I'm looking forward to him joining us over the summer. We've got a real good one there character-wise."
While O'Brien said his only focus right now is on this season, he admits he is looking forward to what Gagai will bring in 2022.
"I'm really excited about Gags and what him coming back to the club will do for us," he said. "It's not only his game that he brings but it's also the experience he has and how much that is going to help our young outside backs to make each and every one of them better. He is an Origin and Test player and we've got young guys that can learn from him.
"His footy is something that excites me as well. He's tough, he's passionate and winning means a lot to him. You can see that in the way he plays for whoever he is playing for, whether it be at club or representative level."
After snaring Gagai, the Knights are now focusing their recruitment attention on securing a backrower/lock to bolster their forward pack.
The club on Monday confirmed a two-year extension for utility Kurt Mann.
As reported by the Newcastle Herald on July 12 Mann will remain at the Knights until at least the end of the 2023 season.
"I'm excited to be here now and extend my future with the club," Mann said in a statement. "We've got a great team and are a real family-orientated club. My partner loves it here and my kids will probably grow up supporting the Newcastle Knights as well."
The club will also meet with current utility Connor Watson this week in a bid to escalate negotiations while backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon is close to finalising a financially-reduced two-year extension.
Meanwhile, Gold Coast's backline stocks have taken another hit with centre Patrick Herbert facing a two-game NRL ban for his high shot on Jordan Pereira.
With fellow Titans centre Brian Kelly in doubt to face Canterbury on Sunday with an ankle injury, Herbert added to Justin Holbrook's concerns on Monday.
The 24-year-old was issued with a grade-two charge for the hit Gold Coast's defeat of St George Illawarra, meaning he will miss games against the Bulldogs and North Queensland even with an early guilty plea.
The Titans already have winger Phillip Sami sidelined with an ankle injury, but have Esan Marsters available in their squad.
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