Gamble, Cogger out to impress as selection battle looms

Tyson Gamble concedes he faces a battle to retain Newcastle's five-eighth spot, with he and Jack Cogger hoping to use the NRL finals series to audition for the role in 2024.

Gamble arrived at the Knights this season as a fringe first-grader but became Adam O'Brien's first-choice five-eighth after Kalyn Ponga reverted to fullback mid-campaign.

He has played almost as many games this year (22) as in his entire career prior to 2023 (25), proving a dangerous option with the ball during the Knights' ongoing nine-game winning streak.

Sunday's home elimination final against Canberra continues the 27-year-old Gamble's quest to once-and-for-all cement his status as a long-term, first-choice half in the NRL.

"That's where I'm at now," Gamble told AAP. "I'd like to think I've done enough to keep my jersey.

"But if you take that mindset into a pre-season, you don't put your best foot forward and things can go downhill really quickly."

Standing in Gamble's way is Penrith's back-up playmaker Cogger, who comes into the finals series with a similar chance to shine ahead of his return to Newcastle next year.

Where Gamble's strength lies in playing eyes-up football, Cogger is a more natural game manager.

But like Gamble, he has only been a first-choice half in fits and starts.

Having returned from a two-year stint in England, Cogger was a capable understudy for Nathan Cleary when Penrith's first-choice No.7 went down with a hamstring injury during the State of Origin period.

Saturday's qualifying final against the Warriors is his second full game in a stint replacing five-eighth Jarome Luai, whose dislocated shoulder will keep him out until at least the third week of finals.

Cogger was electric in the minor premiers' last-start defeat of North Queensland and after debuting at Newcastle in 2016, he returns to the club in 2024 intent on clinching his own spot in the halves.

"All things lead to that," he told AAP. "But at the moment my job's here at Penrith.

"My best years are ahead of me (after) being part of a really successful system (at Penrith) and being able to work side-by-side with Nathan or Jarome and the coaching staff here."

Gamble conceded he faced a battle at the selection table, with neither he nor Cogger likely to oust Jackson Hastings after the halfback's stellar year as the Knights' game manager.

"It's going to be a contest for positions next year and that's when a club's thriving," Gamble said.

If the Knights were to beat Canberra and the Panthers lose to the Warriors, Cogger and Gamble's similar careers would converge in a knock-out semi-final.

"He's come back from the Super League and he's taken his opportunity with two hands, sort of like I have," Gamble said of his soon-to-be-teammate.

"I wish him the best for the finals series - I think he'd say the same to me." 

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