Clubs moving fast to lock up NRL talent
It looms as the hottest free agent class in the history of the NRL, the likes of Jarryd Hayne, Michael Jennings, Johnathan Thurston and Anthony Watmough all up for grabs.
Only problem is, you can’t get a hold of them until 2011.
But such is the demand for the game’s bona fide stars that NRL chief executives have been sent into a mad panic to lock up their biggest names despite players having more than 12 months still to run on their current deals.
It’s all in a attempt to avoid a bidding war, with teams banned from talking to players from rival clubs until the final year of their contract, which does not begin until November 1.
And that’s not including advances from other competitions and codes, with Super League, rugby union and now AFL keeping a keen eye on the NRL’s talent pool.
Already Brisbane coach Ivan Henjak has said he would be interested in talking to Hayne, the Broncos planning for a future that does not include AFL-bound Karmichael Hunt.
North Queensland skipper Thurston has been linked to Japanese rugby union as well as former club the Bulldogs, while Jennings last week revealed he was free to leave Penrith after next season.
That prompted Panthers chief executive Mick Leary to put a reported $2 million four-year deal on the table, Leary admitting long-term planning was just part and parcel of the business.
“It’s just a matter of keeping the marquee players that you want,” Leary said.
“We’re working towards making sure Michael knows that he’s in the future plans of our squad.
“We all know he’s a talent and we’re very happy with him and he’s happy to be here.”
Jennings, Hayne and Thurston are just the tip of the iceberg in what shapes as a stellar group.
In fact, if a club chief executive wanted to start from scratch and was able to get his hands on a creative accountant, there is a 17-man squad on offer that would be the envy of every team in the competition.
Hayne, the game’s hottest player, would slip nicely into the No.1 jumper, with his Eels teammates Krisnan Inu and Eric Grothe on the wings.
The centres could be the NSW State of Origin pairing of Jennings and Manly’s Jamie Lyon, while Dally M medal favourite Jamie Soward and Test halfback Thurston would make for a deadly halves pairing.
Up front, follicly-challenged lookalikes Luke Bailey and the Dragons’ Michael Weyman would give the side plenty of go-forward, with tough-as-nails Canberra skipper Alan Tongue slotting in at hooker.
The potential backrow would have edge defenders looking for somewhere to hide – with Watmough joined by Sea Eagles teammate Glenn Stewart and North Queensland’s Luke O’Donnell.
Need some impact off the bench? How about Ben Hornby, Feleti Mateo, Frank Pritchard and Josh Perry.
The 17 doesn’t even includes the likes of Titans pair Ashley Harrison and Mark Minichiello, Sydney Roosters duo Willie Mason and Braith Anasta, or injured Cronulla skipper Trent Barrett – all of whom are off contract next year.© AAP 2013
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