THE Knights are in negotiations with journeyman South Sydney hooker George Ndaira in the hope of using him as a back-up to Cronulla recruit Isaac De Gois next season.
If Ndaira agrees to terms on a one-year deal, Newcastle would be his fourth NRL club in as many years after stints with the Dragons (2006), Roosters (2007) and Rabbitohs (2008).
The 23-year-old Lebanese international would also join former teammates Chris Houston and Danny Wicks as the third member of the Dragons’ 2005 premiership-winning Jersey Flegg (under-20) team at the Knights.
Though Matt Hilder is already on their books for next season, Knights coach Brian Smith would like to have Ndaira on board to avoid using skipper Kurt Gidley in the dummy-half hybrid role the dynamic fullback was forced to play several times this year.
“We want to avoid that if possible,” Smith said.
Smith’s preference for Hilder is to use him as a utility player off the bench as a back-rower and to cover the hooking and halves roles.
The coach said 16 members of the Dragons’ 2005 Flegg squad, including Wicks and Houston, Josh and Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale, Beau Ryan and Lee Te Maari, were now playing in the NRL. The Knights have little room to move under their salary cap for next season. But if Ndaira agrees to terms, it is understood he would be included among second-tier players and not among the top 25 considered under the NRL salary cap. Knights strategic development manager Keith Onslow denied speculation Ndaira had already agreed to terms or signed a contract with the Knights.
An Arncliffe Scots junior, like Knights and former Dragons centre Wes Naiqama, Ndaira played 14 games for the Rabbitohs this year. He did not play an NRL match with the Roosters last year and made his senior debut among three appearances for the Dragons in 2006.
Onslow said negotiations with Ndaira would have no impact on discussions to retain veteran outside back Adam MacDougall.
The former Test player and his manager, George Mimis, have said they were satisfied with the status of their talks with the Knights.
The Knights are waiting for chief executive Steve Burraston to return from an overseas holiday later this month to finalise salary cap calculations.