ON THE WAY OUT: Robbie Rochow wants to get out of his comfort zone.ROBBIE Rochow believes he needs a new environment to reignite his career.
Nanjing Night Net

It is the reason the 25-year-old turned his back on more money at the Knights to go elsewhere.

And it is the reason his next deal will be for one year.

South Sydney remain the front-runners to sign him after Rochow confirmed on Tuesdaythat he hopedto finalise his future in the next two weeks.The home-grown back-rower told Knights teammates of his impending departurelate last week.

“Coming to the decision to leave was difficult, and telling the group was difficult as well,” Rochow told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday. “It was purely a career decision of where I give myself the best chance to playfinals, and where I will play my best rugby league.I need to take myself out of my comfort zone and work really hard. I think I need a change of environment to do that.”

The 25-year-old from Maitland hadbeen weighing up his options since the pre-season, when he knocked back a three-year extension to his Knights contract.

Rochow’s exit is another blow for the struggling club. Earmarked as a potential leader, he was one of the pillars alongside Daniel and Jacob Saifiti that coach Nathan Brown had hopedto build a forward pack around.

The Herald understands the Knights offer, believed to be $250,000 a season, was the highestof those Rochow received.

Cronulla had loomed asa likely destination, but Rochow’s manager, Allan Gainey, confirmed that the Rabbitohs were now at the top of the listafter a chat between the player and coach Michael Maguire. The Rabbitohs have room to accommodate Rochow, havingreleased back-rowers Chris Grevsmuhl and Paul Carter mid-year, which followed the exit last season of Glenn Stewart and Chris McQueen.

Maguirewas also the assistant coach at Melbourne when Rochow played under-20s at the Stormin 2009.

“I was out of my comfort zone and was surrounded by a lot of people who challenged meconsistently,” Rochow said of his three seasons in Melbourne.“I feel like I need a bit of that again. That is professional sport. Sometimes you have to take yourself away from home to better yourself, and that is what I am doing.”

Rochow returned home in 2011 and has gone on to play 72 games for the Knights. He represented NSW Country in 2014, but injurieshaverestricted him tojust 13 NRL appearances in the past two seasons.

In that time the Knights have slumped to consecutive wooden spoons.

“There have been a lot of things that have gone wrong,” Rochow said.“The club has had a lot of injuries and had a fair few things go against it as well. It is tough mentally. Physically I feel fine. My injuries haven’t had excruciating rehab programs. I have felt OK. Mentally, I think I need a change of environment to get the best out of myself.”

Although confident that he will be“100 per cent for the start of pre-season”, Rochow is not looking that far ahead.

“My focus is this group,” he said.“We have had a lot of meetings and I am still doing video and trying to help as much as I can.It’s unfortunate that I can’t contribute on the field, but my focus is still this club.”

Rochow willbethe third back-rower to part company with the Knights this year, following Joseph Tapine (Canberra) and Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra). Co-captain Jeremy Smith retires at the end of the season.