The Newcastle Knights are set to sign former player Michael Dobson as the man tasked with fixing the junior pathway system in the Hunter region.
Dobson played half a dozen games for the Knights in 2014, and 285 across his entire career between the NRL and the Super League before retiring in the Queensland Cup in 2018. Now, instead of leading the troops, he'll be nurturing them.
Originally brought on to inherit the NSW Cup clipboard in 2023, Dobson will instead be the club's head of pathways, ensuring the best local talent isn't just developed but retained in the Knights' system.
The club has missed some massive local talent from under their noses in recent years, with the likes of Greg Inglis, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Jackson and Boyd Cordner all at one time having the chance to play in the red-and-blue, as have a host of younger players in the NRL right now.
Nick Meaney, Beau Fermor, Joseph Tapine, Tom Starling, Jonah Pezet, Hudson Young and more all either debuted in Newcastle, or played juniors with the club before being shipped off elsewhere.
Newcastle had the option between signing Latrell Mitchell or Brock Lamb a number of seasons ago, signing Lamb after he outplayed Taree-born Mitchell in a junior game.
The club has been up-and-down when it comes to the percentage of local juniors in their line-up in recent seasons, heavily relying on local talent during their lean spoon years of 2015-17, before overcorrecting and playing solely recruits from 2018 onwards.
Dobson is now the man carrying the weight of the junior system on his shoulders, a role integral to new Knights director of football Peter Parr.
“I’ve been taking in a lot of information since I started, but it’s apparent to me that a really key platform to achieve long-term sustainability is making sure we have the correct pathways system,’’ Parr told The Daily Telegraph.
“We’re now in the process of identifying the absolute best person that can implement everything that we want. That will be a great start in taking the club forward.”