Six months ago the Newcastle Knights knocked back Danny Levi’s request for a release, and if requested again, they are unlikely to object.
Levi, 22, has made 66 NRL appearances for the Knights, as well as four Test for New Zealand in last year’s World Cup, and still has two more years left to run on his contract.
There’s speculation brewing Levi could be tempted to join a rival team in the likes of the Wests Tigers or Parramatta in order to make a fresh start.
Knights player-list manager Troy Pezet told the Newcastle Herald on Monday said there has been no official approach from Levi or his team but the clubs stance has somewhat softened.
“If he came to us and wanted permission to negotiate [with other clubs], we would probably look favourably on that, I would think,” Pezet said.
“I’m not saying we would, but if he had an opportunity to play with someone else, we’d certainly have a conversation with his agent about that.”
Pezet says the release of Levi will heavily depend on if the Knights can secure the signature of Dragons utility Kurt Mann.
Mann would need to be released by St George in order to sign with Newcastle, who believe could turn him into an NRL-standard hooker.
“Obviously we’re in talks with Kurt at the moment, and the Dragons are working through some things of their own,” Pezet said.
“So we’re waiting to see what happens there.”
If Mann has to honour his contract and Newcastle let Levi go, the Knights will be left without an established hooker for 2019.
First choice dummy half Slade Griffin looks likely to miss majority of 2019 recovering from his fourth knee reconstruction, while new recruit Zac Woolford is yet to make his NRL debut.
Despite being more at home in the back-row, Jaime Buhrer could be another option for the Knights to fill that hooker role if Levi is released.
Levi’s agent, Mario Tartak, said it was “premature” to suggest Levi would be leaving given no formal talks have been had.
“But if there is an opportunity elsewhere, I don’t think that Nathan Brown, the coach, will stand in his way,” Tartak said.
“At the end of the day, Danny needs to be in place where he can excel, whether it be in Newcastle or somewhere else.”
Wests Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle, who is reportedly attracting interest from the Bulldogs, could weigh in Levi’s decision on whether to be released or not.
Parramatta could be in the market for a hooker after choosing not to retain Cameron King, with their contracted hookers for 2019 being Kaysa Pritchard and rookie Reed Mahoney.