Players of Interest – Kurt Mann
2018 stats – games played (24), Average (28), tries (3)
2017 stats – games played (20), Average (50), tries (7)
He’s not one of your big-name signings, but Kurt Mann was headhunted by the Newcastle Knights in the off-season, which to me suggests that he’ll get a solid role in the side.
The transfer almost didn’t happen. Mann was originally going to be released from his Dragon’s contract once Jarryd Hayne’s signature was secured but then, then that other unpleasantness happened. Eventually, St George agreed to let Mann go anyway to chase a bigger opportunity in the Hunter Valley.
There’s no denying that Mann can play football. Back in 2017, he had back-to-back SuperCoach tons for the Dragons. However, his biggest strength is also his biggest problem when it comes to solidifying an NRL role. The kid is extremely versatile. Because of his talent, over the past two seasons he’s been played in the centres, on the wing, at halfback, five-eighth but most-of-all, he’s been the Dragons utility off the bench.
According to our friends over at NRL SuperCoach Stats, Mann played 17 of his 24 games last year in either the #15 or #16 jersey. In those games, he averaged less than 25 minutes along with 18.9 PPG. In the other seven matches, Mann played almost 80 minutes and averaged 48.9 as either starting winger of five-eighth. And because of that, he comes with dual positioning to start 2019 at the bargain price of just $258,900.
Not content with that role, Mann jumped at the chance to return to Newcastle when the offer came in. Knights head coach Nathan Brown loves to play with a hooker duo (heh), but with Slade Griffin still recovering from a horrible ACL injury, Browny was down to just Danny Levi as his guy. He apparently does not like the young Kiwi international though, so brought in Mann to contend for the starting spot.
As it stands, word out of the Hunter is that Levi is in line to start with Mann playing off the bench once again, but I wouldn’t read into that too much. Last season, Griffin started all the games the two played together. Once the injury happened, Levi started, and Jamie Buhrer or Brock Lamb played that back up hooker role. As I said, Browny loves that dual role and better yet, he plays them in solid minutes. Griffin started rounds 1-16 and averaged 60 MPG. Levi played in nine of those games, all off the bench, and averaged 47 minutes. So, even if Mann is relegated to the bench once more, he should still see an uptick in minutes from what he was getting at the ‘Gong.
The biggest challenge is going to be the adjustment to the middle of the field from a guy who played most of his career out wide. But if given the minutes, Mann has proven that he can rack up some points. Adding some tackles into that will likely just raise his floor. I can see a 40 point average for him, which should raise his price nicely just in time for that first bye round. And better yet, he can be a cheap 5/8 or CTW option for your bench even though he’ll be playing in the middle. It’s a low-risk/medium-reward type option, and one I’m thinking hard about.
I’ll be watching the trials closely. What’s your thoughts?