Former State of Origin and Test five-eighth Matthew Johns has declared Jack Cogger should be a walk-up starter for the Newcastle Knights in the opening round of the 2024 NRL season.

Cogger, who served as the back-up option at the Penrith Panthers to both Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary in 2023 before coming from the bench with a crucial role in the come-from-behind grand final win against the Brisbane Broncos, has decided to move to the Newcastle Knights on a multi-year deal for the 2024 campaign and beyond.

But coach Adam O'Brien has other options, despite Adam Clune making the move to England and the Super League this off-season.

Clune had filled in for Jackson Hastings during a large chunk of the back-end of 2023, while Tyson Gamble played much of the season in the five-eighth role.

The trio was involved in plenty of success for the Knights during the second half of 2023, when the club went from a bottom-four club to a top-eight side that hosted an elimination final where they beat the Canberra Raiders, before falling short in Auckland the following week during a semi-final against the New Zealand Warriors.

Speaking on SEN Radio, though, Johns said he can see Gamble playing some lock or a utility role off the bench - lock is one spot the Knights struggled in a little during 2023 with Adam Elliott at times struggling to stay on the park.

“They signed young Cogger, he should be there,” Johns told SEN 1170 The Run Home.

“He was the unsung hero of the Grand Final I thought, when he came on the field he was one of the main reasons they (Penrith) ran them (Brisbane) down, he sort of freed Nathan up to pick and choose what he wanted to do.

“It's an interesting one, I reckon it'll be Hastings and it wouldn't surprise me if Gamble comes off (the bench) in a 14 role, something like that.

“The Hastings, Gamble (combination) last year, working with Kalyn worked a treat, so there's a little bit of depth there, it'll be interesting what they do, Gamble could also play a little bit of 13 I suppose.”

The Knights kick off their season against the Canberra Raiders on March 7.