The Parramatta Eels have got a $6 million recruitment battle looming in the form of trying to retain off-contract halves Dylan Brown and Mitch Moses.
Off the back of the Eels September success of powering all the way to the NRL grand final, the blue and golds now face the reality check of having rival clubs lined up to try and pick their roster apart.
Brown’s performance for the Kiwis in the World Cup semi-final against Australia has guaranteed the five-eighth can command in excess of $1 million per season on the NRL’s open market while halfback Moses is also in a similar position.
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It’s not just the NRL’s newest team the Dolphins who are going to be in for Brown’s signature either with a host of other clubs also signalling an interest post November 1.
The concern for the Eels is off the back of losing Reed Mahoney, Isaiah Papali’i, Marata Niukore and Oregon Kaufusi they are now under siege in terms of the playmakers they’ve built the club around.
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The one ace the Eels hold is Brown’s management team of Pacific Sports Management run by Chris and Gavin Orr are also the same management team of Parramatta coach Brad Arthur.
It’s well known the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs are both making a play for Moses and the Dolphins are in for Brown but we’ve also heard Canterbury-Bankstown have discussed making a play at the Kiwi Test five-eighth.
There’s clearly no way the Bulldogs could accommodate Moses and Brown but if they could land one of them then their halfback conundrum is solved.
Still only 22 years old, Kiwi Test five-eighth Brown showed he’s got the temperament required to handle big games with his performance for New Zealand against the Kangaroos.
Given his age, there’s also enormous upward trajectory for continual improvement as a playmaker.
There’s a genuine belief amongst rival clubs the Eels probably won’t be able to retain both Moses and Brown.
And if one of the playmakers was to leave Parramatta then it gives the Eels a war chest to try and retain the other.
The Moses camp have indicated they want to try and make a decision prior to Christmas while Brown has put all talks on hold while he embarks on a well-earned European holiday.
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KNIGHTS GET THEIR MAN… BUT AREN’T DONE YET
The Newcastle Knights have finally struck a recruitment blow in the form of landing the signature of Jackson Hastings as a halfback effective immediately.
As hard as the Knights went after trying to land the other Wests Tigers playmaker in Luke Brooks, Newcastle’s play for Hastings was well thought out and well executed.
The ex-Wests Tigers playmaker travelled to Newcastle last Wednesday to have dinner with director of football Peter Parr at Wests Leagues club.
But the meeting that really sealed the deal took place on the Thursday morning when Hastings went and met with Knights coach Adam O’Brien and was impressed with the club’s pitch about why Newcastle wanted him to wear the famous no.7 jumper.
The Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns then soon got involved by picking up the phone and detailing to Hastings why he thought the former UK Man of Steel was the perfect fit to lead the Steel City side in the NRL.
With Hastings calling the shots steering the side around and Kalyn Ponga moving to five-eighth the Knights look a far sharper side than the team which finished 14th last year with only six wins and 18 losses.
The additions of Adam Elliott from the Raiders and firebrand Jack Hetherington from the Bulldogs will also mean Newcastle can field a formidable pack with the Saifiti brothers and Tyson Frizzel still on board.
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For Newcastle a lot of what happens in 2023 will be dictated by how hard the club’s highest paid player Ponga applies himself this off-season.
It’s critical Ponga remains on the field for the Knights for as many games as possible and the signing of Hastings should help in terms of his transition to the five-eighth role.
Newcastle’s next recruitment move centres around finding a suitable fullback with the club currently chasing Cronulla’s Lachie Miller and Brisbane’s Tesi Niu.
The Sharks have so far blocked the move for Miller.
TIGERS JUMP AT KLEMMER
By the time Wests Tigers found out about Newcastle’s Hastings play they quickly realised there was an opportunity for both club’s to benefit and ramped up their pursuit of ex-NSW and Australian front rower David Klemmer.
The Tigers needed Klemmer’s experience and there’s plenty to be positive about the club’s new-look pack for 2023 with Api Korisau, John Bateman and Isaiah Papali’i all set to give the joint venture club a different look and style.
Young gun Wests Tigers forwards Stefano Utoikamanu, Fonua Pole and Shaun Blore will all benefit from the experience of the seasoned NRL players the Tigers have added to begin the new era under Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall.
Hastings was clearly on the outer at the Tigers anyway after the departure of ex-coach Michael Maguire with new coach Tim Sheens making it blatantly clear he viewed the playmaker as a lock and not a halfback.
It’s now an even bigger season for Tigers halfback Luke Brooks — in the final year of a $1 million-a-season deal — given the changes the club has made and the departure of Hastings.
With Hastings gone, the Tigers must now rely on Brooks and Adam Doueihi in the halves with minimal other playmaking options.
If anyone can get the best out of Brooks, surely it’s his ex-teammate and now assistant coach Marshall.
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DOGS EYE ANOTHER PANTHER
We keep hearing the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are considering making a major play for Penrith’s two-time grand final-winning prop forward Spencer Leniu.
It’s a delicate one because Cameron Ciraldo has only recently got his feet under the desk at Belmore and the Bulldogs have already taken Matt Burton and Viliame Kikau away from Penrith into the Kennel.
Throw in the Stephen Crichton play from Canterbury as well and it’s easy to see how premiers Penrith will see red about the Bulldogs continually poaching players.
Leniu showed just how tough he is in the World Cup semi-final for Samoa by playing through the pain of a busted shoulder which was meant to end his tournament.
The old adage has always been the best players can play hurt and the Samoan front rower has certainly delivered in that department in the World Cup.
Leniu is also great mates with Panthers and Samoa centre Stephen Crichton who it is no secret the Bulldogs intend to have a red hot crack at trying to land for 2024.