St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Nathan Fien has distanced himself from speculation he could follow Wayne Bennett up to Newcastle next season and further the `Dragon-isation’ of the Knights.
Having already secured the services of the NRL supercoach for 2011 and beyond, and with former Bennett disciples Neville Costigan and Beau Henry on their books, the Knights are believed to be eyeing off more members of the premiership-winning squad.
Fien is not off-contract until the end of 2012 but the New Zealand international admitted on Monday he had heard rumours linking him to the Knights.
Speculation linking Fien with a move north gathered pace after it was revealed current hooker Isaac de Gois was one of several Knights told they were free to look elsewhere at the end of this season as part of a Bennett-encouraged cleanout.
The 26-year-old has been strongly linked with his former club, Cronulla, who have money to spend after losing representative props Kade Snowden (Newcastle) and Luke Douglas (Gold Coast).
Complicating the push for Fien is the possible return of former Knights skipper Danny Buderus, who is considering an NRL swansong after two years with Leeds in Super League.
Joining Costigan and Henry in Newcastle in 2012 is expected to be Clive Churchill medal winner Darius Boyd, who has a close bond with Bennett – while underrated Dragons prop Jon Green is also on his radar.
The journey from the Dragons to Newcastle had become a well-worn path even before Bennett’s decision – with the Knights having poached Chris Houston, Keith Lulia, Danny Wicks, Ben Rogers and Wes Naiqama from the joint venture since 2007.
Fien’s manager, Jim Banaghan, said he had had no contact with Newcastle regarding Fien’s future, and said the crafty rake would definitely be at the Dragons next season.
“I don’t know where this is coming from,” he said.
“Unless something’s changed than the one he’s signed, he’s definitely on contract (at the Dragons in 2012).”