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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Barry Toohey

TOOHEY'S NEWS: Will Gagai's return put Best in firing line?

Bradman Best is widely regarded as one of the game's great young talents. A powerhouse, tackle-busting centre who is still only 20 and destined for higher honours.

Little more than a month ago when Latrell Mitchell was ruled out of Origin I through injury, Blues coach Brad Fittler even included Best in the conversation when discussing possible replacements.

As it's turned out, it was just a fleeting mention.

Bradman Best

Truth is, Best's form has mirrored that of his team in recent times and there was speculation during the week that he went into last night's clash against the Bulldogs in Brisbane needing a big game to ward off the axe.

In fact, had Dane Gagai been cleared to return from a fractured cheekbone against the Dogs, the suggestion was it would have been Best and not Enari Tuala who would have made way.

Best scored a try and had a hand in another in the win over the Bulldogs but will it be enough to keep him in the side for the Broncos next week at the expense of Tuala with Gagai a likely starter?

It has to be said Best has not been the only player struggling for form. A few games back, coach Adam O'Brien showed his hand by dumping Origin prop Daniel Saifiti from the starting side and he no doubt would have made more changes during the side's seven game losing streak if injuries hadn't wreaked havoc.

It remains to be seen what changes will be made to accommodate the almost certain return of Gagai and Kurt Mann from injury and Anthony Milford's much-anticipated debut in Knights colours against the Brisbane Broncos on Thursday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Milf ready to start

Knights coach Adam O'Brien was giving little away last night after the Bulldogs win about his plans for Anthony Milford against Brisbane on Thursday night with the controversial playmaker finally set to resume his career.

But while O'Brien may not name him in the 17 on Tuesday for the game, we'll be stunned if he doesn't start in the halves against his old club, setting up a mouth-watering showdown with Broncos skipper Adam Reynolds.

Behind an unstoppable forward pack, Reynolds was brilliant in last night's 38-0 flogging of Manly. Newcastle's forward pack will need to do a far better job than the Eagles of keeping Brisbane in check up the middle next week to give themselves a chance of an upset at home.

Finally... a selection headache

With Milford available on top of the likely return of Gagai, Tyson Frizell, Kurt Mann and possibly Jake Clifford for the Broncos, coach O'Brien finally has something he hasn't had all season - a surplus of players to choose from.

Making wholesale changes to a winning side is rarely advisable but it's nice headache all the same.

Dom's star rising

It appears the sky is the limit for rising Knights winger Dom Young.

His turn and chase to run down Bulldogs flyer Josh Addo-Carr and bundle him into touch at a crucial stage in the second half last night with be on every Knights' highlight reel this season and his footy carries continually got his side over the advantage line and on the front foot.

Mitch Barnett's performance in his return from suspension was also significant in the victory while David Klemmer again led from the front.

Elliott's decision time

Canberra utility forward Adam Elliott is tipped to make a decision on his future within the next few weeks with the Knights vying for his signature along with the Raiders.

As is normal practice during negotiations, it's believed Elliott has spoken to Knights coach Adam O'Brien to discuss what his future might look like in the red and blue. Elliott's high profile Brisbane Broncos NRLW girlfriend Millie Boyle has also been targeted by the Knights.

Still on the recruitment front, the Knights are now considered a strong favourite to sign both highly promising English stars Kai Pearce-Paul from Wigan and Will Pryce from Huddersfield.

Pearce-Paul is a damaging young backrower recently named in the Great Britain squad while Pryce is a teenage running five-eighth highly rated by Andrew Johns.

Young stars get a taste

In a sure sign of how highly they are regarded, the Knights flew teenage forwards Paul Bryan and Oryn Keeley to the Sunshine Coast this week to train and spend some time with the senior squad in camp preparing for last night's Magic Round clash against the Bulldogs.

Prop Bryan and backrower Keeley played in this season's S G Ball Under 19's team under coach Adam Bettridge.

Boxing Bulldog

We can only assume Bulldogs giant Jayden Okunbor's late call-up onto the wing against the Knights in Brisbane last night must have taken even the big dread-locked winger by surprise.

We spotted Okunbor [he's hard to miss] in Newcastle at the boxing on Wednesday night tucking into a big box of hot chips, looking anything but a NRL player preparing to run out onto Suncorp Stadium two nights later.

Or maybe it's just that he has a twin brother we don't know about.

Klemmer on the move

Prop David Klemmer has jumped to the outright lead in Baz's Best player of the year competition after 9 rounds following his performance in the Knights' loss to the Cowboys last weekend.

For the second straight week, Klemmer polled maximum points to grab a two point lead from Tyson Frizell and Kalyn Ponga.

Rd 9: Knights v Cowboys: 3 David Klemmer 2 Lachlan Fitzgibbon 1 Kalyn Ponga.

Progress points: 8 David Klemmer 6 Tyson Frizell, Kalyn Ponga 5 Chris Randall, Kurt Mann 4 Dane Gagai, Jake Clifford 3 Dom Young 2 Tex Hoy, Lachlan Fitzgibbon 1 Bradman Best, Mitch Barnett, Enari Tuala.

Jack's special day

As farewells go, golf legend Jack Newton's memorial service on Wednesday at the Civic Theatre will live long in the memory of the 1000-strong crowd there to pay their last respects.

It was a magnificent send-off, befitting the stature of the man, who was a household name in both sporting and charity circles.

There were a host of wonderful tributes, among them some beautiful words from a loving, heartbroken family - wife Jackie, daughter Kristie and son Clint. Jackie summed up her 'darling Jack': "He was a bugger but a good one."

Nikita storms the 'castle

Nikita Tszyu's ruthless first round demolition of Victorian Mason Smith on Wednesday night at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre is set to be just the entree for local boxing fans.

Negotiations are already underway for the youngest of the Tszyu brothers to fight for a second time at the 'Tszyucastle' with a July bout a strong possibility after his storming TKO victory over the previously unbeaten Smith in front of a near sellout Newcastle crowd.

"There is already a lot of support for it," No Limit Boxing promoter Matt Rose said when we asked about the prospect of another Newcastle fight for Tszyu following his win.

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