Brett Keeble July 14, 2012
Grass not always greener … Chris Houston is set to re-sign with the Knights for two more years. Photo: Simone De Peak
NEWCASTLE are poised to re-sign Chris Houston for two more years, ending speculation the workhorse second-rower was headed to Penrith.
Houston could be joined in the Newcastle pack next season by former Panthers skipper Luke Lewis, who has told the Knights he would be interested in joining.
The Herald has been told Houston and the Knights are close to finalising terms on a new two-year deal, and hope to make an official announcement early next week.
That would extend the 27-year-old Narooma junior's tenure to the end of 2014, after he joined the Knights from St George Illawarra at the end of 2007.
Houston is coming to the end of a two-year contract, which included an option in his favour for a third season. He signed that deal in December 2010, 10 days after four drugs supply charges against him were dropped.
Earlier yesterday, Knights coach Wayne Bennett said he would like to sign Lewis, but the chances of that happening would be determined by several factors, many of which were out of the club's control.
But Bennett would be heartened to hear Lewis rates the Knights as a legitimate suitor.
The Herald was told yesterday that Lewis has a high regard for the Knights as a club, for Newcastle as a possible new home town, and for Bennett - who coached him in the NRL All Stars game in February.
Lewis and Dragons skipper Ben Hornby were Bennett's two ''coach's selections'' for that game.
Bennett indicated that by joining the race for Lewis, who announced this week he would be leaving Penrith at the end of the season, the Knights would have to reassess the status of some players who are off contract, or contracted beyond, this season.
''It's not totally pie in the sky stuff, no, but again, we may have to revisit some things there,'' Bennett said when asked about the 28-year-old NSW and Australian mainstay.
''We will talk to him, I hope. We're certainly interested in him, and it's just a case of what the price is out there and whether we can get near it or we can't, and whether someone's offering ridiculous amounts and no one's going to be able to match it.
''Clubs have different requirements and different priorities. Parramatta, for example, they may be able to pay a hell of a lot more than any of us because they badly need a player like him, and [Nathan] Hindmarsh is retiring for them.
''That's what you're doing all the time, you're moving the deck chairs around trying to get the players you want to the club, and trying to get them in the salary cap, and trying to make it all work.''
Bennett said the retention and recruitment of players was a difficult issue to deal with in-season, but every Knights player ''knows where they stand''.
''There's probably a few things happening that I really can't discuss at the moment, but we're active out there and we're looking for some players for certain positions,'' he said.
''Everyone here knows where they stand … we're looking and just trying to get the salary caps right and all the issues that go with recruitment in the middle of your football season, which is always a lot of fun.
''We're on top of that as much as we can [be].''