A strike backrower is all that is standing between Wayne Bennett and his $1 million bonus for delivering Newcastle Knights a premiership from next season.
That is the consensus from NRL insiders who believe Bennett already has the framework for a successful team at Newcastle. A few key men and Bennett’s own considerable influence are all that is needed.
St George Illawarra fullback Darius Boyd is expected to follow Bennett to Newcastle and Cronulla’s representative prop Kade Snowden has long been a target of the Knights.
Melbourne Storm backrower Adam Blair is shaping as the No 1 target. However, Ryan Hoffmann, Joe Picker or Tom Symonds may also come under Bennett’s gaze.
It is widely known Bennett will take Dragons fullback Boyd with him when he leaves at the end of the season and it is believed that he could slot into the centres with Adam MacDougall and Junior Sa’u both off contract at the end of the season.
The five-eighth position could be a problem. Rookie Beau Henry was given first crack at the No.6 jumper this season before suffering an injury but it is understood that the former Dragons Toyota Cup Player of the Year was released by the club because Bennett didn’t rate him.
Bennett has built his success at the Dragons on the back of prop Weyman. The Knights could deliver the master coach a similar platform to build a premiership on if Cronulla’s Snowden heads up to the Hunter.
All this is missing is a strike backrower. Melbourne backrower Blair is the hottest property in the game at the moment. He has been strongly linked to the Tigers and wants a taste of Sydney life but could be swayed to join Bennett after playing under him for New Zealand at the 2009 World Cup.
Hoffman was forced out of the Storm as part of last year’s salary cap scandal at the club and headed over to Wigan but only signed a one-year deal.
Symonds is off contract at the Sydney Roosters and is currently negotiating his future while Canberra is also in talks with Picker about extending his time at the Raiders.