OPPORTUNITY: Chad Redman.
KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett is considering giving former Australian Schoolboys hooker Chad Redman the chance to realise a childhood dream by including him in an extended squad for Newcastle’s season-opener against Penrith at Sportingbet Stadium in nine days.
Bennett is still working through his options for the key positions of hooker, five-eighth and fullback, and Redman threw his hat into the ring with a stand-out performance in Newcastle’s 34-14 victory over Canberra in a pre-season trial at Tamworth on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Western Suburbs Rosellas junior came off the bench to replace Travis Waddell for the second half against the Raiders and made the most of his opportunity.
He scored the second of Newcastle’s four second-half tries and helped the Knights stretch a 12-10 half-time lead to 34-10 before Canberra scored a late consolation try.
Redman was only a late call-up after his friend and fellow rake Adam Clydsdale suffered a knee injury when he collided with Willie Mason at training the day before the game.
Clydsdale has been diagnosed with a strained medial ligament and is expected to miss the first two rounds, leaving Waddell, Redman and captain Kurt Gidley as Bennett’s options at dummy-half for opening day against the Panthers.
Bennett switched Darius Boyd to five-eighth for the first 65 minutes against the Raiders, then brought Gidley off the bench to finish the game alongside halfback Tyrone Roberts.
Dane Gagai played fullback and Bennett promoted Pat Mata’utia to replace Gagai in the centres.
It is understood Bennett is weighing up starting either Boyd or Gidley at pivot against the Panthers, though Michael Dobson ran there at training on Tuesday, Gidley played hooker and Boyd was in his regular fullback position.
Bennett will continue contemplating combinations at training today and tomorrow.
If Boyd starts at fullback against Penrith and Gidley at five-eighth, Redman could come off the bench to relieve Waddell at hooker, as he did against Canberra and in the trial against the First Nation Goannas on February 8.
Redman played 66 games for Newcastle’s National Youth Cup team from 2010 to 2012 inclusive, graduating to the full-time squad last year and playing in Rick Stone’s NSW Cup side that finished one game short of the grand final.
He started in five of Australia’s six matches on the 2010 Australian Schoolboys tour, including two Tests against England Academy and two against France under 18s and under 19s.
When Redman returned from that tour, former Knights strategic development manager Keith Onslow described him as ‘‘the quintessential Knights player, because he is local, he is tough, super competitive and he has got plenty of footy in front of him’’.
Prop Zane Tetevano is expected to be sidelined for the first four rounds after breaking his hand against Canberra, leaving Korbin Sims, Adam Cuthbertson and David Fa’alogo in the mix to join Chris Houston, Alex McKinnon and possibly Redman on the bench.
The probable starting pack will be Willie Mason and Kade Snowden as props, Gidley or Waddell at hooker, and Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow and Jeremy Smith in the back row.
Wingers Aku Uate and James McManus pick themselves, as does centre Joseph Leilua, and Boyd and Gagai will be there somewhere depending on Bennett’s final decisions on his fullback and five-eighth.
Bennett is not expected to finalise his squad until Tuesday but could give some insight during the jersey presentation to sponsors at the club’s corporate season launch tomorrow.