Titans’ odd man out revealed, four clubs plot raid for Cowboys star as Dragon eyed: Transfer Whispers
Maroons star Ben Hunt is not short of suitors amid reports the Gold Coast Titans are ready to launch an audacious bid for his services.
And another Dragons half is on the radar of a rival club too with the Bulldogs keeping an eye on Jayden Sullivan.
Meanwhile, four clubs are reportedly keen on Cowboys custodian Scott Drinkwater and Titans gun Jayden Campbell could get squeezed out.
Elsewhere, there’s interest in a Tigers half, while Souths are lining up a bid for Manly enforcer Martin Taupau.
Read on for all the latest in NRL Trasfer Whispers.
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TITANS’ SPINE REVAMP COULD SQUEEZE STAR OUT
A big call is looming for Titans coach Justin Holbrook with either Jayden Campbell and AJ Brimson both vying for the No.1 jersey next season.
The Titans have made a big move to fix their clear inexperience in the spine by signing veteran five-eighth Kieran Foran for next season.
It’s expected young halfback Toby Sexton will partner him, allowing Brimson to play in the position he knows best — fullback. But where does that leave Campbell?
News Corp reports several clubs have already made enquiries about the 22-year-old’s future despite him being contracted until the end of 2024.
DOGS EYE A DRAGON
Ben Hunt’s sublime form is good for the Dragons but not so good for halfback-in-waiting Jayden Sullivan.
Hunt’s $1 million-a-year contract expires at the end of 2023 but with rivals circling, the Dragons have already begun negotiations to lock him in on a fresh extension.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a new deal for the star No.7 will prompt Sullivan’s management to request an immediate release — and the Bulldogs are waiting to pounce.
Sullivan was locked in last November on a three-year extension that keeps him at the club until the end of 2025. But this deal was done before Hunt wound back the clock to produce some of his career-best form.
Further clouding Sullivan’s future is the fact the Dragons are set to re-sign Hunt’s halves partner Talatau Amone, who is managed by the same agent as Sullivan.
Sullivan, 20, has had limited opportunities in NRL this season, playing just six games from the bench, but it’s well-known that he is more than capable of playing in the top grade every week.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are still keeping a close eye on Sullivan, three months after they were first linked to him.
Kyle Flanagan has improved this season and has nailed down the No.7 jersey from Round 5 onwads. However the rumours of Flanagan’s exit won’t go away.
RIVALS CIRCLE DRINKWATER
Cowboys star Scott Drinkwater is set to spark a bidding war after a standout season.
Drinkwater has notched 14 try assists in as many games, and added six tries of his own.
But with his contract expiring at the end of 2023, the North Queensland gun is in the sights of plenty of rivals who will look to open negotiations after the Nov. 1 deadline.
Having been shifted to the number one jersey in round five, Drinkwater has played a crucial role in the Cowboys’ success this season - capped off with a devastating two-try performance against the Dragons where he topped the charts with 170 run metres and added a try assist..
News Corp reports that four NRL clubs, including the Dolphins and Knights, are readying their chequebooks.
The Dolphins already had a bid to sign Drinkwater for 2023 rebuffed by the Cowboys, but have now reportedly lined up a three-year deal to shore up their fledgling spine.
Rivals will reportedly offer over $700,000 per year for the 25-year-old.
MADDEN ON THE MOVE?
Jock Madden’s future at the Tigers is increasingly clouded, with their stacked 2023 halves corps leaving them vulnerable to a poaching raid for the 22-year-old – and there’s seemingly no shortage of interest.
The Tigers boast Luke Brooks, Adam Doueihi, and Jackson Hastings on their roster for next season. But Madden has impressed since taking over at halfback following season-ending injuries to Brooks and Hastings, with the youngster shining in the Tigers’ upset over the Broncos.
According to News Corp, the off-contract gun is being eyed by as many as five clubs, with the Panthers already reportedly tabling an offer to make Madden their back-up to Nathan Cleary.
“He wants to stay at the Tigers if they can explain to him his role and their pathway for him,” Madden’s agent Chris Orr was quoted by News Corp.
“The Tigers haven’t made an offer at this stage. Tim Sheens (football boss) has called me and said he wants to keep him, but he has interest from a number of clubs including Penrith, the Sharks and Newcastle.
“The Titans called me and asked me where he is at with the Tigers and what’s he doing for next season. They are watching him, he is playing well, so Jock will make a final call in the next week or so.”
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HUNT FOR THE TITANS?
News Corp revealed that the Titans are considering a play to lure the Dragons captain north to from the 2023 season.
The Titans are believed to be one of six clubs trying to acquire Hunt’s services from at least the 2024 campaign.
But considering he doesn’t come off contract with the Dragons until the end of next season, the Titans will have to wait until November 1st to submit an official offer.
“We have started the process to extend Ben, and we’re very hopeful we can keep him at the club long-term,” St George Illawarra chief executive Ryan Webb said.
It comes amid a report that the Dragons have locked in rising half Talatau Amone until the end of 2024, the 20-year-old having enjoyed a breakout season in 2022 alongside Hunt.
His signing could help to convince Hunt that his future should remain in the Illawarra.
Hunt, who was leading the Dally M race before the count behind closed doors, signed a
mammoth five-year deal worth more than $5 million with the Dragons in 2017.
The 32-year-old has proven himself to be one of the premier players in the competition since, after starring in State of Origin again this year.
The party was well and truly on in Queensland as Hunt ran away for a long-range, game-winning try in the Origin decider in Brisbane last month.
But considering his age, it’s believed that he could commit to a smaller deal.
The New Zealand international has signed a two-year deal which is reportedly worth $400,000 per season.
“It’s no secret I enjoy being coached by Hook (Anthony Griffin),” Hunt said.
“I know we’ve had some setbacks for the past two games, but we’ve got the right foundation in place – and we have the right coach.
“I’m loving my time at the club and enjoying myself. I know I’m also getting to the back end of my career and want to win (a premiership).
“My manager will meet with the club next week so we’ll see what happens. I still think I’ve got at least three years of footy in me. I’m contracted for next year, and I’d like another two after that.
“I’ve been lucky with injuries. I don’t see why I can’t go until at least the end of 2025.”
RABBITOHS SET TO LAUNCH BID FOR MANLY ENFORCER
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have reportedly entered the race to secure Sea Eagles’ prop Martin Taupau’s signature for the dawn of the 2023 season.
According to Zero Tackle, the club believe that Taupau would be a suitable replacement for departing prop Mark Nicholls, who will join the Dolphins for their inaugural season.
The Bunnies are reportedly set to table the 32-year-old a two-year contract which will see him at South Sydney until the end of the 2024 season.
The Eels were close to locking in Taupau for the rest of the season, however the Sea Eagles chose to thwart the move in a last ditch attempt at securing a spot in the top eight come finals time.
If Taupau is to link up with the Rabbitohs for the 2023 season he would he would add to the club’s depth in the forwards joining the likes of Thomas Burgess, Liam Knight, Tevita Tatola, Davvy Moale and Daniel Suluka-Fifita.
While the Dolphins have expressed an interest in Taupau, the experienced prop ideally wants to play for a club based in Sydney.