Knights captaincy vacant til next year
Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown is mulling over whether to continue with joint captains next season or return to having a solo leader.
Trent Hodkinson started on his own as skipper last season, but a nagging knee injury, and subsequent drop in form, brought an end to his 30 games at the helm.
Manly recruit Jamie Buhrer took the reins but a fractured foot in training kept the former NSW Origin utility out for two months. Up stepped local junior Sione Mata'utia, who had moved from the backline into the pack. Mata'utia led the Knights 15 times last season and Buhrer nine.
The pair are uppermost in Brown's mind although he is not in a rush to anoint anyone until the new year. He also has three premiership-winning forwards arriving for the 2018 season in Melbourne utility Slade Griffin, Roosters back-rower Aidan Guerra and Sharks veteran Chris Heighington.
Brown will also consult his coaching staff, including reserve grade coach Simon Woolford, former Cronulla first-grade mentor James Shepherd and former Wests Tigers head coach Mick Potter, who is on World Cup duties with Fiji.
"[It will be] probably a bit more down the track before we decide," Brown told NRL.com.
"Jamie is obviously a very experienced player and very respected among the playing group. Sione is much younger and it (the captaincy) was a lot of pressure to put on a younger player. At the time it was certainly the right decision for our club because Sione was a player who's going to be in our future.
"There [were] some great challenges there for Sione and he really accepted them well. He's learning a lot along the way and change brings experience. And we've got some good experienced players coming into the club, so we're very open-minded with our leadership."
Brown also threw back-rower Mitch Barnett into the mix, if he decided to go with multiple captains.
"We've got a gun group there from last year who have put a lot of time in," Brown said. "So there's a fair bit of water to go under the bridge yet before we have to make a decision.
"But Jamie has led us really well and in our young emerging group, Sione and Mitch Barnett have gone well and we want them to continue to grow."
While choosing a captain is one dilemma, another is settling on a halves combination from Hodkinson, Brock Lamb, Jack Cogger and incoming Roosters recruit Connor Watson.
"We'll look at a number of combinations in our pre-season," Brown said. "We've got a couple of things in mind and we've spoken to some players privately about where they fit in the pecking order.
"The good thing is we've got a little bit of pressure on everyone there, which is great."