Newcastle coach Nathan Brown hasn't completely given up on the idea of bringing Mitchell Pearce to the Hunter even if the Sydney Roosters have issued a "hands off" friendly threat.
Brown oversaw his first pre-season training session with the Knights on Wednesday and he feels the NSW halfback's club future is still not clear.
"The basic thing is that he is a Roosters player and obviously, they've got a desire to keep him," Brown told NRL.com.
"But I understand Mitchell has gone away to think about his future. Mitchell might be very happy with the situation that he's going to confront, or he might not be happy and he may want to change clubs.
"So there's a lot of water to flow under the bridge firstly on whether Mitchell is going to become available or not, or if the Roosters will allow him to become available."
Pearce's position at the Tricolours appears to be in limbo with this week's signing of Melbourne's premiership-winning No.7 Cooper Cronk.
The Kangaroos halfback has urged Pearce to stay, and The Daily Telegraph reported a friendly catch-up between Roosters chairman Nick Politis, Newcastle's new CEO Phil Gardner and director John Quayle resulted in an edict that Pearce was going nowhere.
The 28-year-old playmaker still has two years left on his Roosters deal.
Brown is into his final year of a three-season contract in 2018 and has begun negotiations to extend his tenure at the club.
"I certainly didn't go through what we've gone through the first two years to walk away, for someone else to get the far-improved Knights squad," Brown said.
The Knights have made several impressive recruits - Cowboys rising star Kalyn Ponga, Warriors forward Jacob Lillyman, Roosters duo Aidan Guerra and Connor Watson, Sharks veteran Chris Heighington, Storm workhorse Slade Griffin and Broncos pair Herman Ese'ese and Tautau Moga.
Brown's primary focus is leaving the wooden spoon far behind after three years in a row. But after just one win in 2016 – Brown's first season – the Knights racked up five victories last season and slashed their points differential from -495 to -220.
"There's been a lot of hard work done by a lot of people and we feel our squad is going to continue to improve over the next 12 to 18 months," he said.
"Our younger players will gain even more experience with the players we've added and some more players will come into our squad.
"I've started the conversation with Phil Gardner and I feel very comfortable where things are. That's the main thing."
Wednesday also marked the takeover of the Knights from NRL hands to the Hunter's Wests Group.
"The club is settled and financially stable. We've got a centre of excellence, they're putting more money into our juniors. So it's all positive for us," Brown said.
"With the new owners, there should come expectation from all us – players, coaches, trainers – and rightly so.
"Certainly it's a new era for all of us to be owned by a community-based business, which is very successful. It can only help the organisation to move forward."