Luke Brooks is unlikely to be the man to replace Mitchell Pearce in Newcastle with Wests Tigers adamant their halfback is not up for grabs.
Pearce is expected to meet with Knights officials this week to discuss an option to move to France-based Catalans, despite a year still to run on his NRL deal.
The French club have targeted the former NSW No.7 as their ideal replacement for James Maloney, who has retired from the English Super League.
Speculation over Pearce's future has prompted suggestions that Brooks could head north to Newcastle after nine years of intense spotlight at the inconsistent Tigers.
But the joint venture insists that won't be the case.
Brooks is a Tigers junior and was the club's player of the year this season. He also attracts a discount on their salary cap as a long-serving player.
They have signed Jackson Hastings for next year, but fellow half Adam Doueihi is expected to miss the first half of the year as he recovers from knee surgery.
Hastings has been a star in his three years in the Super League, but hasn't had a consistent run as a starting half in the NRL since the Sydney Roosters' 2016 horror show.
Without Brooks, that would leave Hastings partnered with the untried Jock Madden as the Tigers playmakers for the first half of the year.
Likewise, Madden has played just three NRL games and has had limited football in the past two years with reserve grade seasons cancelled due to COVID-19.
Beyond Brooks, the Knights do have other options if Pearce is let go.
Jake Clifford impressed in his 13 games for the club at five-eighth last year after arriving from North Queensland.
Youngster Phoenix Crossland is one option to partner Clifford if the Knights release Pearce and don't land a replacement, now aged 21 and with 16 NRL games to his name.
Alternatively, the Knights could shift Kalyn Ponga to five-eighth in a move that would allow Tex Hoy to play fullback with both dynamic players on the field at the same time.Internet Explorer Channel Network