The Newcastle Knights have kicked off talks aimed at keeping workhorse Matt Hilder at the club beyond the end of the season.

Hilder’s agent, Wayne Beavis, said staying with the Knights was ‘‘his preferred option’’ but negotiations were still at the preliminary stage.

Beavis said Hilder, who turned 29 two weeks ago, was hopeful of securing a three-year deal that would allow him to play out his NRL career with the Knights.

The utility forward has been an outstanding asset since joining Newcastle from the Gold Coast in 2008, playing in 72 of a possible 81 games.

He has missed only one game in the past three years and last season won Newcastle’s player of the year award.

Negotiations are well advanced with New Zealand Test centre Junior Sa’u.

Sa’u, who joined Newcastle as an unknown from Canberra in 2008, is expected to agree to a two-year contract as early as next week.

Knights officials say contract talks with hooker Isaac De Gois are a work in progress.

A host of other off-contract Knights face uncertain futures.

Wes Naiqama, Shannon McDonnell, Cameron Ciraldo, Marvin Karawana, Steve Southern and Keith Lulia remain free agents amid speculation linking the Knights to big names Darius Boyd, Nate Myles and Danny Buderus.

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