EXPERIENCE: James Graham.THE Newcastle Knights are closelymonitoring developments at Canterbury as speculation mounts that the Bulldogs will be forced into a wholesale player cull to be salary-cap compliant next season.
The Bulldogs are widely accepted to be facing a roster crisis, amid reportsthey willneed to release a host of players if the NRL proceeds with plans to set a salary cap of $9.14 million for 2018.
If a cleanout is required, no club would appear better placed to capitalise than Newcastle, who have budgeted conservatively and are still looking for recruits to reinforce their squad for next year.
Knights coach Nathan Brown said in a radio interview at the weekend he still hopes to sign“four or five” new players before next season kicks off.
Newcastle’s priority isfront-rowers, and theyheld negotiations with Brisbane veteran Adam Blair at the weekend.
They have also been linked with Canterbury skipper James Graham, while they may be in a position to offer top dollar to David Klemmer, Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran should any or all of them become available.
Woods (Wests Tigers) and Foran (Warriors) have signed lucrative deals with the Bulldogs starting next year, but they have not yet been ratified by the NRL.
Klemmer was reported in June to have asked for a release from the final three years of his contract unless the Bulldogs were willing to upgrade his financial terms.
“We’re in discussions with a lot of different players at the moment and we’re certainly not in any rush,’’ Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said.
“At this point, we’re sitting back to see what transpires.
“If those sort of players [at the Bulldogs]become available –and that’s a massive ‘if’ –we’re in a position to go and have real conversations with them.
“We know the type of player we’re looking for and we’re expecting that there will continue to be movement right up until the start of next season.
“From our point of view, we believe we are well positioned and it’s a matter of considering our options and making the right choices.”
Newcastle have already signed North Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga, Sydney Roosters duo Aidan Guerra and Connor Watson and Brisbane pair Herman Ese’ese and Tautau Moga.
Former Kiwi Test winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall joined Newcastle before the June 30 transfer deadline.
There was speculation on Monday that Ponga was having second thoughts, after reportedly attracting interest from rugby union, but Gidley hadno reason to doubt the teenager would honour his four-year contract with the Knights.