Stone hopeful of re-signings and new recruits
Incoming Newcastle Knights coach Rick Stone is hopeful of shoring up his forward stocks and signing a couple of extra men before the Novocastrians commence the 2015 NRL season.
With Newcastle sacking Zane Tetevano midway through the year before saying their farewells to forwards Adam Cuthbertson, Matt Hilder, Travis Waddell and Willie Mason by season's end, the Knights are now left with a considerable hole in their pack to fill.
Big worries still remain too with duo Chris Houston and David Fa'alogo yet to re-sign, considering NSW Cup props Pat Vaivai and Sam Mataora are yet to play consistent NRL football.
Stone however is confident both veterans will stick around to presumably see out their careers in the Hunter.
"I'd like to think they'll stay at the Knights," Stone told NRL.com.
"We have to get through a couple of things before we tick them off the list but they are both keen to stay at the club which is important and once we get a few other things sorted hopefully they'll re-sign quickly."
With rumour rife former Australian and Newcastle prop Antonio Kafusi is seeking an NRL contract and Dragons prop Jack Stockwell given permission to look elsewhere, there remains potential for the Knights to sign more forwards ahead of 2015.
While Stone remained coy over specifics, he did mention there should be enough room in the club's salary cap to recruit a few "basement buys" in the near future.
"There is possibly a little bit of room [in the salary cap]. I don't think we're quite finished yet with our playing roster," Stone said.
"It is almost done, but if we can get Howzo (Houston) and (David) Fa'alogo to stay then we will maybe have enough room for one or two more signings after that.
"At the moment, we're working through a process to give us the opportunity [to sign players]... once we do that we will try and make some decisions."
While off-field matters will seemingly be settled in the coming weeks, on the field Stone is looking forward to Newcastle's pre-season – his first at the helm of the club since 2011.
After finishing up his coaching role with the Fijian Bati team a fortnight ago, Stone will now turn his focus to improving on Newcastle's 12th-place finish this year.
"Most of the planning has been done and all the staff is in place for the upcoming season," Stone said. "So we're all looking forward to [pre-season] starting."