He has played just four games for the Knights but five-eighth Beau Henry is the latest contracted Newcastle player facing an uncertain future under incoming coach Wayne Bennett.
Henry is less than one year into a three-year contract but it was reported on a Sydney radio station yesterday that the 21-year-old Warilla Gorillas junior is exploring other options for next season and beyond and Cronulla are favourites to sign him.
Forwards Cory Paterson, Mark Taufua and Antonio Kaufusi are all contracted at the Knights until the end of 2012 but in the past 10 days have been given permission to sign longer-term deals elsewhere and will be granted early releases from their Newcastle commitments if successful.
It is understood Henry’s relationship with Bennett is the sticking point.
Henry was the National Youth Cup player of the year in 2009 while playing for St George Illawarra’s under20s but was unable to crack it for an NRL spot that year or last year behind the established halves pairing of Jamie Soward and Ben Hornby. Seeing no NRL future for himself at the Dragons, Henry signed a three-year deal to establish himself at the Knights.
His manager, Gavin Orr, could not be contacted for comment last night but the Newcastle Herald has been told the Cronulla Sharks have already spoken to Orr about signing Henry for next season.
When Bennett said on April 12 that he would coach the Knights for the next four years, Orr told the Herald that he was confident that appointment would not hinder Henry’s development or undermine his future in Newcastle.
But the Herald was told yesterday that Orr was testing the water in the belief that Henry could struggle to cement a spot in the halves under Bennett, who will have Jarrod Mullen, Kurt Gidley and promising rookie Tyrone Roberts at his disposal.
Gidley is expected to spend more time around the scrum base to accommodate the likely signing of Queensland and Australian match winner Darius Boyd, who is tipped to play fullback.
Five-eighth Ben Rogers, who left the Dragons to join the Knights at the end of 2008 just as Bennett was taking over at St George Illawarra, is contracted at Newcastle until the end of next season.
Knights coach Rick Stone would not comment about Henry’s status and club officials were reluctant to discuss the matter.