Knights in no rush to settle on halves pairing

Jasper Bruce |

Jackson Hastings has earned a recall to Newcastle’s top grade for the clash with the Dragons.
Jackson Hastings has earned a recall to Newcastle’s top grade for the clash with the Dragons.

Adam O’Brien is in no rush to settle on Newcastle’s halves combination as he prepares to welcome Jackson Hastings back from an “exceptional” two weeks in reserve grade.

Hastings will partner Jack Cogger against St George Illawarra this Friday to form the Knights’ third unique halves combination in five games this season.

Tyson Gamble, Hastings’ offsider on the run to the 2023 semi-finals, has been dropped after Newcastle lost their third game from four starts against the Warriors on Sunday.

The revolving door comes after an off-season of speculation as to how the Knights would deploy new recruit Cogger, Penrith’s back-up playmaker on the run to last year’s premiership.

There appears no space on Newcastle’s bench for a back-up half, given the 17 already features two hookers in Jayden Brailey and Phoenix Crossland, with the latter able to switch to the halves in a pinch.

Tysone Gamble.
Tyson Gamble directing the Knights around the park dring a pre-season clash with the Sharks. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Despite the Knights’ 1-3 record, O’Brien is in no rush to determine which of his two halves formed his preferred pairing.

“We’re round five. There’s still 20 games to go. It’s a long season,” he said.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate, we’ve got three pretty capable guys there.”

O’Brien expected Hastings would direct traffic against the Dragons at McDonald Jones Stadium, with Cogger playing second fiddle.

Hastings impressed the coach with his attitude after his surprise axing a fortnight ago.

“I asked Jackson to go back and work on a couple of things in his game,” O’Brien said.

“He really applied himself to those things.

“I can only go on his attitude towards training and then what his attitude was with the NSW Cup side and he did an exceptional job. Everyone’s happy to have him back.”

Also playing into O’Brien’s thinking were the chance to test a new combination’s chemistry in an NRL setting, and the slippery conditions forecast.

“I want to have a look at (Hastings) and Jack playing in a game together,” O’Brien said.

“With the conditions, short turnaround, I just feel like it’s the right thing to do, certainly for this week.

“The weather conditions, both of them have a really solid kicking game so I think that’ll hold us in good stead.”

A disappointed Gamble will line up in the NSW Cup ahead of the first-grade clash.

“Tyson’s a clubman, he will get on with the job this weekend,’ O’Brien said.