Knights attempt to re-sign superstar brothers
The Knights will try to secure whiz kid Sione Mata'utia and his brothers to long-term contracts to keep them from the clutches of rival NRL clubs.
Eighteen-year-old Sione has emerged as a potential superstar after his treble of tries in Newcastle's 28-22 victory over the Warriors at Hunter Stadium on Sunday and match-winning performances in last-gasp triumphs over the Storm and Roosters in the past month.
Sione, 22-year-old Chanel and 20-year-old Pat are all contracted until the end of next season but their manager, Chris Haddad, will meet incoming Knights coach Rick Stone and chief executive Matt Gidley today to discuss the prospect of extending and upgrading those deals.
The future of 23-year-old Peter, who is in the first year of a two-year deal with the Dragons after he made his NRL debut with the Knights in 2011, will also be discussed.
''A lot of other clubs are lining up. They're hot property, all of them, particularly Sione and Peter,'' Haddad said.
''Four clubs want all four of them, three clubs want three of them, and four clubs want two of them. We've got a few things to work out, but we'd like to give Newcastle first and last option.
''Stoney and Matt are good people, and Stoney's had a lot to do with their careers already.''
Starting with their debuts in a 16-12 victory over the Roosters on July 25, Sione and Chanel have played Newcastle's past four NRL games together.
Peter played six games for the Knights in 2011 and 2012 and has played six for the Dragons this season, scoring a try in their 34-16 victory over the Raiders in Canberra last Saturday.
There was speculation last month that he was seeking a release from the Dragons to continue his career at either the Bulldogs, Sharks or Raiders, but it is understood a return to the Knights will be one of the options Haddad discusses with Stone and Gidley.
In October last year, the Knights announced they had re-signed Sione and Pat until the end of next year, and Chanel until the end of this season, but they have since exercised an option for a second year for Chanel to extend his tenure until the end of 2015 as well.
Pat is yet to play NRL but is a former NSW under-16s and Australian Schoolboys representative who plays centre in Newcastle's finals-bound NSW Cup team.
''Sione and his brothers are all contracted until the end of 2015 so they're here for another season, but we opened discussions with the boys' manager a number of weeks ago with a view to extending their contracts,'' Gidley said.
''All three boys have been a part of our system all the way through so they're clearly important members of our clubs moving forward, and they've shown their potential in recent times, certainly with Sione and Chanel making their NRL debuts.
''We're absolutely confident those boys will remain a part of our club for a long time to come.''
Though he shielded Sione from the media after their victory over the Warriors, coach Wayne Bennett described the former Australian Schoolboys skipper as a future Knights captain.
Meanwhile, Gidley hosed down speculation that centre Dane Gagai wanted to leave the Knights and follow Bennett back to Brisbane next year.
Gagai made his debut at the Broncos in 2011 but was sacked the following year after a string of disciplinary breaches. Bennett threw him a lifeline to join the Knights midway through 2012, then in May last year he signed an extended deal to remain in Newcastle until the end of 2015.
''People can speculate all they like but Dane is contracted until the end of 2015, I've heard nothing to suggest otherwise, and we're hopeful of extending his contract,'' Gidley said.
It is understood Gagai is at the centre of a tug o' war between two management companies and must resolve that before the Knights or any club can conduct meaningful negotiations about his future beyond next year.
Fairfax Media has been told Gagai's 19-year-old brother Jacob, who joined him at the Knights last year, is homesick and is considering returning to Queensland, but Dane is settled in Newcastle and keen to continue his career at the Knights.
Gidley said the Knights had begun negotiations to extend the contract of former Raiders prop Sam Mataora, who joined Newcastle just before the June 30 mid-season transfer deadline and has been playing in the club's NSW Cup side.
That contract will expire at the end of this season but the Knights hope to sign the 23-year-old Cook Islands international to a long-term deal.