Cameron Ciraldo’s appointment as Bulldogs coach for the 2023 season has shone a spotlight on the club’s roster — and who the youngest coach in the NRL could bring with him to Belmore.
The 37-year-old has strong links with a number of players in the Panthers squad, and NRL360 co-host Paul Kent believes at least “one or two” will make the move.
“If you are a betting man you’d have to say one or two would go with him,” Kent said.
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“Generally, when a coach leaves a club he will always take one or two with him.”
While the Panthers reportedly hold no fears over Ciraldo poaching players, they have moved to lock down their biggest off-contract stars.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Panthers fear a $6 million bidding war and have tabled initial offers to Origin stars Liam Martin, Stephen Crichton and Brian To’o.
The club wants to avoid having all three still unsigned by November 1 when they can negotiate with rivals for the 2024 season.
According to the report, Crichton’s value could top $800,000 a season on the open market due to his ability to play fullback, Martin 600,000 and To’o up to $500,000.
The Australian’s Brent Read revealed the Bulldogs have an “amazing” amount of cap space available to sign marquee players in 2024 putting them in a position to table big-money offers for the trio.
“In 2024, they have so much salary cap room it is not funny, I think they only have about a half a dozen players on contract for 2024,” Read said on Triple M.
“They have an amazing amount of room.”
It may only be the start of the signings as Phil Gould and Ciraldo set about building a roster that turn the Bulldogs into contenders once again.
Foxsports.com.au analyses the players Cameron Ciraldo may target in his Bulldogs rebuild!
Young gun Stephen Crichton has been one name tipped to make the cross-town move to the Bulldogs.
The 21-year-old still has his best playing days ahead of him and has already played Origin and won a premiership.
Currently, plying his trade in the centres, Crichton’s value comes from his ability to play fullback and, according to NRL360 host Braith Anasta, his “X-factor”.
“That is the advantage he brings… he is playing centre at Penrith but he has the ability to play fullback,” Kent said.
“The managers all try and sell them as fullback because they become worth more, but he has the ability to.”
“He has the X-factor,” Anasta said.
The Bulldogs are also in desperate need of a specialist fullback, despite Jake Averillo’s strong performances in the No.1 jersey in recent weeks.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Panthers are hopeful of retaining Crichton but will be unable to match lucrative offers from rival clubs.
The reigning premiers will be reportedly relying on Crichton’s familial connection to the region and the club’s recent success to play a significant factor in his decision.
Addressing his future on Tuesday, Crichton said he would deal with any decision in the off-season.
“I haven’t really spoken to my manage or anything about that,” Crichton, who can negotiate with rivals from November 1, said.
“Still locked in with Penrith for the rest of the year and we have some big games coming up. I haven’t really thought about that outside stuff yet.
“That time will come up. My main job is to …. perform on the weekend. I haven’t thought about it too much. I will leave it to the end of the year to make those big decisions.”
Again, Ciraldo’s Panthers connection will be a major contributing factor in this signing – but the Bulldogs have the cash to match Martin’s value.
Liam Martin could command upwards of $600,000 on the open market and his Origin and finals experience could be a great addition to the Canterbury-Bankstown squad.
The club are also losing Jack Hetherington in 2023 and Martin would likely form a strong backrow partnership with Tevita Pangai Junior, Viliame Kikau, Josh Jackson or Raymond Faitala-Mariner.
Martin would likely be seeking a long-term deal for his next contract and reports suggest the 25-year-old knocked back the Panthers first extension offer.
While Martin’s first preference would be to remain at the foot of the mountain, with the Bulldogs salary cap space – the club could offer him a contract too good to turn down.
Another Panther who comes off contract this year and the Penrith club will be desperate to keep.
To’o could command upwards of $500,000 on the open market being one of the competition’s elite wingers and could form a strong partnership with Josh Addo-Carr.
Young gun Jacob Kiraz could make a move into the centres after a barnstorming start to his NRL career, forming a formidable backline for years to come.
To’o familial ties and history of success with the Panthers will likely come into the equation but the Canterbury-Bankstown club could hand To’o a lucrative deal to entice him to Belmore for the 2024 season.
Lachlan Miller has showed he is at home in the NRL arena in his three first grade games for Cronulla this season.
The former Olympian shifted codes and earned a call-up to play fullback in Round 11, scoring a breakaway try.
Since that game, young gun Kade Dykes has overtaken him in the pecking order, filling in for Will Kennedy after suffering a syndesmosis injury.
While the 28-year-old would be a great option to take over the fullback role at Belmore, his versatility could see a number of clubs lining up to sign him.
Miller has played in the halves for the Sharks feeder club Newtown Jets, whilst also starring at fullback or on the wing for Craig Fitzgibbon’s side.
Miller would also likely be a cheaper option and is available to negotiate with rival clubs come November 1.
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Jackson Hastings return to the NRL has been a seamless following a successful stint in the English Super League.
The 26-year-old was the ever-reliable figure in the Tigers line-up throughout the 2022 season, despite suffering a broken leg during an ugly hip-drop tackle.
Hastings has in the past been linked with a move to the Bulldogs and could form a strong partnership with Origin star Matt Burton.
“The one Tigers player that hasn’t been linked with the Bulldogs is Jackson Hastings,” Read said on NRL360.
“I reckon if the Bulldogs said we would love Jackson Hastings, I reckon the Tigers would say he is all yours.”
Hastings is reportedly earning $500,000-per-season on his current two-year deal but will be free to negotiate with rival clubs come November 1.
Incoming Tigers coach Tim Sheens has a huge decision to make regarding his halves partnership, with three players vying for the No.6 and No.7 jersey — Brooks, Hastings and Doueihi.