You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Young gun looms as Knights No.1 contender

AAP logoAAP 22/12/2016 Laine Clark

A young gun looks set to turn heads as Newcastle's new fullback next year - but it won't be NRL prodigy Kalyn Ponga, it seems.

Knights coach Nathan Brown appears to have given up on Ponga earning an early North Queensland release, naming surprise pick Dylan Phythian and Pete Mata'utia as next year's fullback options.

Newcastle had kept their fingers crossed that Ponga would be released from the final year of his Cowboys contract after signing the 18-year-old on a lucrative four-year Knights deal from 2018.

Newcastle need a fullback - and fast - after custodian Jake Mamo left for English Super League club Huddersfield.

Flying winger Nathan Ross - Newcastle's leading try scorer in 2016 - had stated he wanted a shot at the vacant fullback spot.

However, Brown said contrasting contenders Phythian and Mata'utia had impressed.

Utility Phythian, 21, is armed with less than 60 minutes of first grade experience.

Mata'utia, 26 has played 52 games.

"In the short term it'll come down to either Dylan Phythian or Pete Mata'utia," Brown told Knights TV.

"They're both doing some really good stuff and the team has confidence in them, which is important."

Brown hinted that Phythian's lower grade experience at fullback may give him the edge over Mata'utia.

"It's Dylan's first NRL pre-season, but he's a very good competitor and his fitness levels are great," Brown.

"He's also a real natural for the game."

Mata'utia has played the majority of his NRL games on the wing or in the centres.

"Pete Mata'utia's obviously got a fair bit more experience in the game ... he's been in full-time systems for a long time now," Brown said.

"His experience at fullback is a little bit limited, as he's spent most of his NRL career at wing or centre."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon