After passing the halfway mark of the season, those sides in the bottom few are starting to look to next season.

Below we take a look at those sides including their recruitment to date, and those players who they should target.

Related: 2018 Recruitment Gradings – Bulldogs, Warriors, Raiders, Eels

It’s a little bit of fantasy booking per say, and I’ve tried to keep those potential targets realistic. Without knowing the exact salary cap position of each side, take the suggestions with a grain of salt, but given reports, and common sense, they are players each side would likely be able to recruit.

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Newcastle Knights

In: Aidan Guerra (Sydney Roosters, 2020), Kalyn Ponga (North Queensland Cowboys, 2021)

The Knights have opted for quality over quantity to date. In Guerra, they have a rep forward with a wealth of experience and plenty to offer. In Ponga, they have signed a genuine game changer. Some say they had to offer him ‘overs’ to sign, but I think it will be a case of ever cent well spent. Ponga is a freakish talent and a potential decade-plus fullback. They need to get busy, but so far, so good.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 03: Aidan Guerra of the Roosters runs at the defence during the round 13 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos at Allianz Stadium on June 3, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Out: Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jarrod Mullen (released)

Mullen’s suspension means that neither he nor Trend Hodkinson, the much lauded, Knights halves pairing is a feature right now. The club seems to be looking toward the future, which is a positive. Gagai is a big loss, but to be honest, has never really lived up to his potential in a well-beaten side. He has been a star at Origin level but has been shifted around positon-wise in the Hunter.

Re-signed: Mitchell Barnett (2020), Danny Levi (2020)

Mitch Barnett has been a revelation for Newcastle and deserves his contract extension. Danny Levi is a clever, young number nine with a big future. He needs some bigger, more experienced, forwards leading the way, and an experienced half to take charge of the play. Both are great re-signings.

Off Contract: David Bhana, Brendan Elliot, Jaelen Feeney, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Jacob Gagan, Tom Hughes, Peter Mata’utia, Sam Mataora, Mickey Paea, Pauli Pauli, Will Pearsall, Dylan Phythian, Tyler Randell, Josh Starling, Jack Stockwell, Anthony Tupou, Luke Yates

Expect the Newcastle brass to get busy and look to re-sign the likes of Feeney, Fitzgibbon, Mataora, Pauli, Phythian, and Yates, as well as a few others. I’d expect them to look to sign some more experienced NRL players before looking to re-sign too many others.

Should Target: Blake Ferguson, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Jacob Lillyman, James Roberts

The Knights need that marquee signing. Cooper Cronk is obviously their number one target, but they’ll have to pay through the nose and be willing to allow plenty of concessions to be even a shot. Blake Ferguson, at centre or fullback, needs to be made a priority sooner rather than later. Hoffman is the kind of second rower they need. Hundreds of games of experience, plenty to offer, and someone who won’t break the bank. Lillyman likewise. They need some size up front or they’re long odds to return to finals footy anytime soon, even if they land Cronk or Ferguson. If I were the Knights, I’d ask James Roberts what it would take to sign today, then I’d add $10,000 to that number, shake his hand and sign the deal. He is EXACTLY the player they need.

Grading: C

The Knights need to get busy and sign some more experienced players, especially in the halves and forwards. The two signings to date have been brilliant, and the re-signings two pieces of clever business. They are being patient, which I love, but I would be very surprised if there aren’t some big moves very soon. They need a marquee half, that is very obvious. Another forward or two are also needed to join Guerra, Buhrer and Barnett. Expect a few re-signing also. Good so far, but need more.



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