Unwanted front-rower Antonio Kaufusi appears set to resist the Newcastle Knights’ attempts to offload him to a rival club.
Kaufusi, like fellow forwards Cory Paterson and Mark Taufua, was called in by Knights officials last month and told it would be in his interests to start looking for a fresh start elsewhere, despite being contracted to Newcastle next season.
The trio were informed they were not in incoming coach Wayne Bennett’s plans and should start seeking alternative employment.
Paterson has since signed with the North Queensland Cowboys and arrived in Townsville yesterday to start a 2-year deal.
Taufua has agreed to join the Cronulla Sharks for the next two seasons.
But Kaufusi is apparently content to stay put.
The Newcastle Herald understands that Kaufusi’s management company have told the Knights their client’s young family is settled in Newcastle, he has a daughter in primary school, and he intends to honour his contract next season.
Despite having 18 months to run on the contract, the former Melbourne Storm heavyweight was dumped to the Cowboys’ Queensland Cup feeder team, Mackay Cutters, after falling out of favour with North Queensland coach Neil Henry.
Searching for a prop after the much-publicised departure of Danny Wicks, the Knights stepped in to offer a lifeline, signing Kaufusi for the second half of last season and two more years.
But the deal was heavily subsidised by the Cowboys, who paid out the bulk of Kaufusi’s contract last year and continued to contribute towards his salary this season.
Since moving to Newcastle, the Tongan-born giant has been unable to recapture the form that earned him a Kangaroos jersey in 2006 and a Queensland Origin appearance in 2007.