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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

Why the Knights are in a race to re-sign NSW Origin rookie Bradman Best

A MONTH after speculation surfaced that that they might be willing to release Bradman Best, the Newcastle Knights face a race to re-sign their newly capped NSW Origin tyro.

Best, the 21-year-old centre, was a shock selection on Monday in the Blues' starting line-up for the third game in this year's interstate series, to be played at Accor Stadium on Wednesday week.

The 103-kilogram flyer will make his debut alongside Newcastle teammate Jacob Saifiti, who has been named on the bench, replacing Brisbane prop Payne Haas, who withdrew through injury.

Knights back-rower Tyson Frizell, who featured in NSW's back-to-back losses in the first two games of the series, has been dropped.

After an injury-disrupted career, Best is enjoying a breakout season and clinched his selection by scoring a hat-trick of tries in Sunday's club-record 66-0 annihilation of Canterbury.

With one more season remaining on his contract, the Central Coast junior effectively becomes a free agent on November 1 and will be entitled to start negotiating with rival clubs.

A standout showing in Origin III will only increase his value and also intensify the pressure on Newcastle officials to re-sign him.

Knights football manager Peter Parr refuted rumours last month that that the club would be open to releasing Best, telling the Newcastle Herald he hoped to extend his deal before he explores the open market.

"That would be our preferred option ... we'll let Bradman keep playing his footy for the moment, and see what eventuates down the track," Parr said. "But the club has put a lot of time, effort and resources into Bradman, so we'll be doing everything possible to ensure he remains in a Knights jersey."

Knights coach Adam O'Brien said after Best's dominant display against the Bulldogs that his form this year had been built on hard yards during the pre-season.

"He had a real good summer, Bradman, and I am a firm believer that the better your summer is, the better your season will be," O'Brien said. "So he's put the work in ... I'm really happy for him."

Best, a 2018 Australian Schoolboys representative who played in NSW under-age teams under Brad Fittler's coaching, said recently that State of Origin had "always been a goal of mine".

"That's the pinnacle of rugby league, to go out there on the big stage and play ... it's obviously the biggest game to be a part of, and that's definitely a goal of mine."

A teenage prodigy who debuted in the NRL within weeks of turning 18, Best has endured a cruel run of injuries, including seven bouts of surgery.

In five NRL seasons he has made just 61 appearances, but he has played every minute of Newcastle's 16 games this year, scoring eight tries in the process.

Saifiti will make his second Origin appearance after an outstanding debut in last year's series decider, scoring a blockbusting try in NSW's 22-12 loss.

His hopes of retaining his position this year were hindered by a five-game suspension and, after Sunday's romp against Canterbury, he gave himself little chance of selection.

"I don't think that will be happening," he told the Newcastle Herald. "I'll just focus on playing well for the Knights."

At the age of 31, Frizell's Origin career might be over after 16 appearances in the sky-blue jersey.

He has been replaced in the NSW starting line-up by South Sydney heavyweight Keaon Koloamatangi.

Frizell is one of three Newcastle back-rowers off-contract and considering their options, along with Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Brodie Jones.

The club is reported to have signed Rabbitohs back-rower Jed Cartwright for the next two seasons, as well as English international Kai Pearce-Paul.

To see more stories and read today's paper download the Newcastle Herald news app here.

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