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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Barry Toohey

TOOHEY'S NEWS: Knights to take a Gamble but still sweating on Brooks

The intrigue surrounding just who will feature in the halves for the Knights next season is ramping up and without a crystal ball, it's impossible to predict just where the cards with fall.

Rest assured though, Luke Brooks still remains central to the Knights' plans despite continual denials from Wests Tigers boss Tim Sheens that his halfback will be released.

Over the past fortnight, the Knights have been linked to out-of-favour Brisbane Broncos playmaker Tyson Gamble and Manly winger/fullback Reuben Garrick.

Luke Brooks

The talk is Newcastle is closing in on Gamble's signature. He's been given permission to negotiate by the Broncos and he appeals to the Knights because of his competitive streak, his strong defence and good kicking game.

The interest in Garrick is a little more left field as it is dependent on Kalyn Ponga being shifted into the halves next season. The contracted Manly star will only entertain changing clubs if he is guaranteed a fullback spot.

While Garrick's goal-kicking would be a major bonus, there remains some serious reservations internally about shifting Ponga out of fullback. We're told that will only be considered as a last resort in the event the Knights miss out on Brooks.

That presumably means any genuine attempt to sign Garrick won't eventuate until Brooks exhausts all avenues for a Tigers' release.

If the Knights were to land both Brooks and Gamble, it would kill any potential deal with Garrick. That may well change if the Tigers halfback stays at Leichhardt.

Jake Clifford's future in Newcastle next season is also likely to hinge on Brooks.

Payout Knightmare

Employing a head of high performance has rapidly become a financial nightmare for the Knights.

For the second time in less than 12 months, the club has parted ways with their high performance boss and taken a significant financial hit in the process.

Hayden Knowles

At the end of last year, Balin Cupples was moved on and paid out with two years left to run on his contract after taking the fall for an injury-plagued 2021 season. History repeated itself this week when Hayden Knowles departed less than 12 months into a three-year term, with another sizable termination payment.

Interestingly, the Knights injury toll did not improve under Knowles' watch.

This column suggested a fortnight ago Knowles' position had become untenable after the much-publicised on-field spat between himself and David Klemmer during the Bulldogs game.

At the time, it was thought he would see out the season despite falling out with senior players and key staff but after several meetings, the end was sudden.

We're tipping Knowles' replacement will rent rather than buy when he arrives in Newcastle in a few months.

Simi's frustration

Simi Sasagi is just 21 and has time on his side. But the question a lot of fans want answered is when will the classy Knights utility be given a decent opportunity by coach Adam O'Brien to develop into the player many believe he can become.

Sasagi has more X-factor than most in the Knights squad but must be frustrated by the limited game time he has been given this season to try and make an impression.

His disappointment was evident when he was thrown on for just 10 minutes against the Raiders last week and it's not the first time he has been used sparingly. Hopefully in 2023, he'll get a chance to show his real potential.

Coach for hire

Despite doing a great job in the Knights junior system this season, taking the club's SG Ball Under 19's to the play-offs before linking up to assist with the Jersey Flegg Under 21's squad, we're hearing former Macquarie Scorpions premiership-winning coach Adam Bettridge will be back coaching in the local comp next season if a job becomes available.

Vale Tony Townsend

Expect to see highly-regarded foundation Knight Tony Townsend given a fitting farewell on Old Boys Day next Sunday at McDonald Jones Stadium after he sadly lost his long battle with leukemia earlier this week.

Eddie a big loss

Edrick Lee will play his final game for the Knights next Sunday against the Sharks before departing for the Dolphins and his loss will be felt by the club on and off the field.

Close call: Edrick Lee narrowly denied a try.. Picture: Peter Lorimer

Eddie has become a favourite among players and fans with the respect for him only growing after he fought back from a career-threatening injury last year. His five tries against the Titans this season is a club record and he's the leading scorer with 13. He almost made it 14 late against Canberra on Sunday but was denied by the corner post with photographer Peter Lorimer capturing the moment brilliantly with this superb snap.

Klem unbeatable

Inspirational hooker Jayden Brailey produced his best game since his injury return last Sunday to take major points in our player of the year competition. With two games left, David Klemmer holds an unassailable lead.

Rd 23: Knights vs Raiders

3 Jayden Brailey 2 Tex Hoy 1 Edrick Lee

Progress points: 21 David Klemmer 14 Dom Young 10 Kalyn Ponga, Mitch Barnett 9 Tyson Frizell 8 Edrick Lee 7 Kurt Mann, Anthony Milford 5 Jayden Brailey, Chris Randall, Dane Gagai 4 Tex Hoy, Jake Clifford, Enari Tuala 3 Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti 2 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Simi Sasagi 1 Bradman Best, Phoenix Crossland.

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