Kalyn Ponga says his sole focus is on winning a premiership with the Knights and is totally committed to the club. Right now though, we can only take him at his word on that. Fans are entitled to be at least a little sceptical about just how committed the brilliant young fullback is to Newcastle and the Knights going forward given his refusal to hose down speculation about his playing future beyond next year. His contract with the Knights, worth in excess of $1 million a season, has options in his favour for 2023 and 2024, meaning he can leave if an opportunity he fancies more comes along. What's more, he can talk to rival clubs now about the 2023 season. He denies he has spoken to Wayne Bennett and the Dolphins but says he doesn't know if his father Andre, who is also managing him, has held talks with the NRL's newest club. During his first day back at pre-season training on Wednesday when quizzed about his future, Ponga told the media: "I want to be here". He even appeared bemused by the constant speculation surrounding him. "I need to write something on my forehead that I'm here [at the Knights] and committed," he quipped. Or he could simply walk into coach Adam O'Brien's office and tell him he is not going anywhere for the next few years. Game over. Kurt Mann appears set to be handed first crack at nailing down a permanent spot in the Knights' pack next season as a ball-playing lock. The plan is to make him an integral part of a revamped Knights' attack that will presumably off-load a lot of the boring structure that made the side so predictable last season. Coach Adam O'Brien is keen to use Mann in a first receiver role in a similar fashion to how clubs like the Panthers, Roosters, Souths and Manly use Isaah Yeo, Victor Radley, Cam Murray and Jake Trbojevic. Boom youngster Simi Sasagi and Phoenix Crossland are also seen as players who could be developed in that role while Mitch Barnett is another strong option there. At this point in time, the Knights will start next season without a dominant halfback with Mitchell Pearce gone so the versatility of having a ball-playing lock at your disposal becomes more important. The dogs that were barking so loudly a few weeks back about Luke Brooks wanting out of the Wests Tigers because of his relationship with coach Michael Maguire have died down since the arrival of Tim Sheens at the club. Sheens insists Brooks is going nowhere but if the mail about him being off the coach and wanting out is true and Sheens can't fix it, how long before it becomes an issue again? The Knights are saying nothing about Brooks. But given the fluidity of the market and how quickly things can change with players and clubs, you can bet your life they are keeping a close eye on potential developments. It's not all bad news for coach Brad Tighe and his Northern Hawks team despite the club being denied promotion into the Newcastle RL top grade next season by the NSWRL. We're told former Knight Tyler Randall, among a handful of profile recruits who were ready to link with the Hawks if they were promoted, won't be returning to the Kurri Bulldogs now as expected. Instead, he's agreed to play reserve grade with the Hawks in 2022 and help Tighe push the promotional barrow over the next 12 months. Still on the local league, Maitland coach Matt Lantry has poured cold water on whispers the club has been talking to 37-year-old veteran Greg Bird about a swansong season with his junior club. The controversial former Test and Origin star is back in Australia on the Gold Coast after several years in France. "Yeah, I've heard the rumours and we'd love to have Birdy back at the club in some capacity but hand on heart, I haven't spoken to him," Lantry told us.
Kurt Mann appears set to be handed first crack at nailing down a permanent spot in the Knights' pack next season as a ball-playing lock. The plan is to make him an integral part of a revamped Knights' attack
New position. Kurt Mann = First and Last receiver.
Yep pretty much this.I don’t believe for a second Mann will be playing first receiver. O’Brien is giving nothing away. Johns is here to overhaul and blow up the attack.
"The Knights have the Roosters on the back-foot here and might just steal this game! Saifiti plays the ball 10 out from the Roosters line.. Brailey to Mann, who runs sideways! He passes to Hoy!!! IT'S ON HERE!!! ... Hoy passes it to the Roosters ball boy. Game over."Yep pretty much this.
Joey and O’Brien both know what they are doing.
It’s a smokescreen to keep Tex Hoy under the radar until round 1
Was anyone able to read this with a straight face? Like imagine the coaches passing this message onto the journalist knowing full well what Mann dished up as a "playmaker" in his time here..
I want to be optimistic about him grabbing his opportunity but "Kurt Mann" and "Integral" should not be in the same sentence.