Kurt Mann will partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves for Newcastle in round one, but rising star Tex Hoy is snapping at his heels.
The 20-year-old Knights junior forced his way into the conversation with a sensational NRL Nines campaign and backed it up with a slick try playing five-eighth against the Roosters in Saturday’s trial.
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Ponga and Pearce perfection
NRL: Kalyn Ponga scored a try for the Newcastle Knights vs the Roosters after Mitchell Pearce placed a pinpoint chip directly into the path of the elite fullback.
And while coach Adam O’Brien has settled on the Mann and Pearce combination to start the NRL season, with more defensive preparation Hoy could force his hand.
O’Brien admitted he would have given Hoy more time at five-eighth in the pre- season if he could have foreseen his improvement over the past few weeks.
“That’s not to say we can’t start that now,” O’Brien said after Saturday’s 58-0 win over the Roosters.
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“He’s got a long way to go defensively, Tex, and I’m not putting him right up there just yet, he’s just had a really good pre-season.
“He’s got a footy ability. You see him there [against the Roosters] run the ball.
“Tex has an innate ability just to make things happen. It’s a rare talent, so it’s something that we need to work with.”
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Hours before the trial Hoy was promoted to the Knights’ top 30 squad, signalling his importance in O’Brien’s plans for 2020.
And although he has sporadically played five-eighth or in the centres, Hoy has predominantly been a fullback while rising through the Knights’ junior system.
It’s a defensive challenge that Hoy needs to overcome if he wants to play in the halves, although O’Brien is unsure of what position he is best suited to long term.
“I just see he has a future,” he said.
“We’ve only just started to really talk about it since the Nines. He’s got a long way to go defensively. Having played fullback for most of his life you tend to not be too strong in the defensive department.
Adam O’Brien wants Tex Hoy to work on his defence.Source:Getty Images
“I’ve made it really clear to these guys that the way to get yourself into this team is to be a good defender.”
Ideally, Hoy will get his NRL chance to deputise for fullback Kalyn Ponga when he is called up for State of Origin duty mid-season.
“Hopefully Kalyn plays, that’s the first thing, but if he does hopefully Ads calls me up and I’ll be ready,” Hoy said.
“I just want to play consistent footy, that’s what’s going to get me up into first grade.”
Originally published asTex Hoy is pushing hard for a Knights debut. But he still has one roadblock
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