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Flanagan launches $5 million bid to poach Roosters star to kick-start Dragons' rebuild as Souths, Warriors re-sign big guns

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31st October, 2023
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New Dragons coach Shane Flanagan is ready to offer Roosters star Joseph Manu a mega deal to lure him to the rebuilding club while also offering the prospect of playing his preferred position of fullback as part of the offer.

Flanagan has wasted little time since the November 1 free agency deadline expired overnight by declaring in a Sydney Morning Herald interview that he wanted to poach Manu to wear the St George Illawarra No.1 jersey in 2025.

The Kiwi international’s path is blocked at the Roosters by the presence of NSW and Australian captain James Tedesco, who is under contract at the club until the end of 2025.

Already the Roosters have lost Joseph Suaalii to rugby union after next season because the young prodigy wanted to play fullback and was offered huge dollars to leave.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15: Joseph Manu of the Roosters reacts during the round 20 NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm at Sydney Cricket Ground on July 15, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Joey Manu reacts during the round 20 loss to Melbourne. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Manu will be following in his footsteps if Flanagan gets his wish. The Dragons would be able to offer Manu a long-term deal well over $1 million a season as they have several players leaving over the next 12 months as well as uncertainty over the final two seasons of skipper Ben Hunt’s lucrative contract.

“From what I see when he plays fullback, his involvement is enormous. I think he could make a real fist of it,” Flanagan told the SMH.

“I’d love to have him, but I just don’t know if he’s going to move. In the end, it’s not us, it’s not the Roosters, it’s just what Joey wants to do.

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“I know he loves the Roosters, I know Nick [Roosters chairman Nick Politis] loves him. Does he want to leave and have a crack at fullback? He obviously won’t get to play too much there.”

Manu was named player of the tournament last year at the World Cup after his starring role for New Zealand at fullback but has had limited opportunities in the position at club level with Roosters coach Trent Robinson also trying him at five-eighth last season.

The Dragons are also interested in Sharks utility back Connor Tracey while current fullback Tyrell Sloan could be used on the wing and centre Zac Lomax is keen to try his hand at five-eighth.

Incumbent five-eighth Talatau Amone’s playing future is clouded as he is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of an assault on a tradesman from an incident last year in the Wollongong suburb of Warrawong.

One player who won’t be on the move is Souths forward Jai Arrow, who has inked a new deal until the end of 2027.

Arrow, 28, has played 143 NRL matches, of which 63 games have been for the Rabbitohs, since making his first grade debut for the Broncos against the Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium in 2016.

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“I want to finish my journey at this club,” he said.

Red-hot winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has re-signed with the Warriors through 2025 on the first day of the NRL player market re-opening.

Canberra have also taken advantage of the November window opening to secure Super League grand final-winning forward Morgan Smithies on a three-year deal.

From Wednesday, clubs are able to hold formal talks with players whose current deals run out at the end of 2024.

The highly regarded Watene-Zelezniak, who enjoyed a career-best year at the resurgent Warriors, will remain in Auckland for at least another two seasons after signing a one-year extension.

Few Warriors benefited more from the side’s permanent return to Auckland in 2023 following three years of COVID-enforced disruptions.

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Watene-Zelezniak was named one of two Dally M wingers of the year for his role in hoisting the Warriors from second-last in 2022 to preliminary finalists under rookie coach Andrew Webster.

By scoring a double in the grand-final qualifier against Brisbane, the 28-year-old broke the club’s record for most tries in a season, crossing for his 24th four-pointer of the campaign.

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