Newcastle’s mission to recruit NSW Origin halfback Mitchell Pearce could cost the club one of its most prized local juniors – playmaking prodigy Brock Lamb.
Off contract at the end of next season, Lamb officially became a free agent on November 1 and can now speak with rival clubs.
Aware of Newcastle’s desire to sign Pearce, the 20-year-old has duly tested the open market over the past week after several rival clubs expressed interest.
In fairness to the Knights, coaching staff have spoken to Lamb directly about plans to entice Pearce up the M1.
If Newcastle were to successfully poach the unsettled Rooster – and its understood they have around $1.2 million spare under next year’s cap to throw at him – Lamb would appear be on the outer.
Pearce’s former Roosters team mate, Connor Watson, signed a healthy deal in July, specifically to play five eighth.
He started training with Newcastle yesterday and would seem a natural fit alongside Pearce at the scrum base, should the 238-game veteran move north.
Maitland-bred Lamb has only played 24 games after debuting in 2016, but has shown considerable potential in a struggling side.
With Trent Hodkinson battling to remain in first grade through form and injury woes over that period, he has also not had the benefit of consistently learning from a topline, experienced half.
The Knights would argue that Pearce offers him that chance.
However, there’s no guarantee Lamb would make the starting halves with Watson in his path. Lamb would also risk damaging his market price while playing NSW Cup.
Of the possible suitors, Manly rates as the best fit. Sea Eagles five eighth Blake Green is sweating on a release to join the New Zealand Warriors, where a three-year deal worth nearly $2 million – easily the richest of his career – awaits.
The club’s captain and halfback, Daly Cherry-Evans, would also be a great mentor for Lamb.
Pearce won’t make a call on his future until he returns form an overseas holiday in the USA later this month.
After signing Cooper Cronk to guide the team, Roosters officials have urged Pearce to see-out the final two years of his contract – even if that means time on the bench or at hooker to relieve workhorse co-captain Jake Friend.
Manly, Cronulla and Newcastle have all expressed interest in Pearce.
However, the Knights have the most money to offer him and also enjoy a friendly relationship with the Roosters, who have already released Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Watson to them in the past six months.