Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Barry Toohey

Toohey's News: why Hastings is in the hot seat in Knights halves battle

Knights half-back Jackson Hastings. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

In his four years as coach of the Knights, injuries and a lack of depth has cushioned Adam O'Brien from having to make any real tough selection calls.

By nature, he is conservative and loyal and has generally stuck solid with his senior playing group in the past even when some were out of form, arguing there were no better options.

Most of the time, he was probably right. But he has the luxury of some depth in key positions this season. And after watching his side fritter away a win against Canberra a week ago through poor handling and too much sideways attack in front of a bumper Thursday home crowd, there is a big decision to be made surrounding his halves Jackson Hastings, Tyson Gamble and Jack Cogger.

He can't continue to carry all three. And right now, the player under the most pressure heading into Saturday's clash with the Cowboys is Hastings.

There is a reason why both Cooper Cronk and Matthew Johns believe Cogger should be wearing the Knights' No.7 jersey. One of Cogger's biggest strengths, along with his kicking game, is his ability to play direct and straighten the attack. It's what helps provide the space out wide for Kalyn Ponga to work his magic. That was badly missing against the Raiders.

O'Brien may have pulled the trigger and swapped Hastings for Cogger this week had hooker Jayden Brailey been right to return from injury off the bench. But he's out for a further week so Cogger was again chosen in the No.14 jersey. If the coach sticks to the team he named on Tuesday, Hastings and to a lesser extent Gamble will be under the blowtorch in Townsville. Falter and one will almost certainly pay the penalty.

Bloodletting ends

It's no coincidence the appointment of Peter Parr as Knights head of football has brought with it some much-needed stability in the club's footy department.

So, no surprise in the wake of Adam O'Brien's three-year contract extension that Parr has kicked off negotiations to re-sign the coach's support staff, with assistants Blake Green, Rory Kostjasyn and Brian McDermott all off contract at the end of the season. In the eight years prior to Parr's arrival in August 2022, a staggering 60-plus staff [not counting players] came and went, many of them paid out with time left on contracts. But the constant bloodletting has stopped under Parr's watch. We're hearing all three assistants are likely to stick around.

Fitting tribute to Leigh

Hats off to Adam O'Brien and Peter Parr and the entire club for the wonderful show of respect they afforded Knights' founding father Leigh Maughan on Monday at his funeral in Mayfield.

The Knights top 30 playing group had morning and afternoon training sessions on the day but every player and member of the footy staff attended the farewell to celebrate the life of one of the Knights most important figures. It was a great send off.

Maps' horror run

Promising young Knights centre Krystian Mapapalangi just can't catch a break.

Mapapalangi, who played two games in the NRL back in 2022 when he was 19, has been plagued by shoulder issues since, with a reconstruction restricting him to just one game last year. This season hasn't started any better. He was knocked out in the opening tackle of the Knights' NRL trial against Cronulla and now faces a month on the sideline after damaging shoulder ligaments in NSW Cup last week. While it's the same shoulder he had surgery on, this injury is not considered serious.

It wasn't a great first round for promising hooker Riley Jones either. He faces six weeks out after undergoing ankle surgery.

Broncs snare next Best

There were rumours last season the Broncos enquired about Bradman Best's future when it was speculated in the Sydney media the Knights may be willing to release the young centre to free up salary cap space.

Knights officials quickly quashed the speculation, and Best went on to star for NSW in Origin and the club during their finals charge before inking a new Knights deal until the end of 2027.

But Brisbane didn't finish up empty-handed. They signed Bradman's 15-year-old brother Baxter, who his brother claims will be "a better player than me".

A fullback/centre, Baxter lives with mum and dad in Ipswich and still has three years of high school left, which prompted their decision to sign a three-year deal with the Broncos. So what are the chances of Bradman and Baxter playing for the Knights down the track? "We'll see - I'd love for it to happen and will be pushing for it when the time comes," Bradman said.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.