Newcastle Knights Training Session
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06: Adam O'Brien coach of the Newcastle Knights during a Newcastle Knights NRL training session at Newcastle on February 06, 2020 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Reports of a rift between the Newcastle playing group and coaching staff have emerged in the wake of Connor Watson's departure from the Knights.

Watson is set to join the Roosters from the 2022 season on a two-year deal, a move that follows failed negotiations between the utility and his current club.

According to Fox Sports, Watson has signed a shorter, cheaper deal to return to Bondi after baulking at a three-year deal with Newcastle.

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Acting as his own manager, Watson's contract with the Chooks is reportedly worth $600,000, which equates to an estimated $50,000 less per-year than the offer tabled by the Knights.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MAY 19: Connor Watson of the Knights runs the ball during the round 11 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Newcastle Knights at Cbus Super Stadium on May 19, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The decision has sparked some speculation surrounding the relationship among the club's key figures in both the playing and coaching departments.

Speaking on NRL 360, reporter James Hooper stated his beliefs that there is cause for concern at Newcastle.

“This story lends itself to the fact that there might be a bit of a bad scene unfolding at the Knights at the moment,” Hooper said.

“I’m not sure the playing group and coaching staff are all on the same page.

“The way it has unfolded is that they had a team meeting and Connor at the end of that, opted to tell the playing group and coaches that he had an announcement that he had decided to sign with the Sydney Roosters.

“I think that blindsided quite a few of the club officials and as a result, he will head off to the Chooks.

“I think where the Knights dropped the ball in negotiations is that they underarmed Connor, worth half of what he’s on next season.

"I think it came as quite a shock to the Knights players when he announced it today.”

Fellow panelist Paul Crawley agreed with Hooper, believing the growing tensions among the Knights could cause further harm in the aftermath of Watson's departure.

“It’s a major concern for the Knights because usually if a player is in your system you’d expect to get them at a bargain price,” Crawley said.

NRL Rd 3 - Knights v Wests Tigers
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Michell Pearce with his team during the round three NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 28, 2021, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

“In this instance he’s gone to the Roosters for less money. I can understand that, but it’s bad for the Knights and their salary cap management looking forward.”

The Knights are looking to cement their place in the top eight in the coming weeks, with a clash against the 16th-paced Bulldogs in Round 23 likely to bolster their position on the league ladder.

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