The Dolphins are “negotiating” with a Broncos young gun who has been given permission to leave as Wayne Bennett looks to bolster his spine options.
Meanwhile, the Panthers look set to lose Stephen Crichton with the Bulldogs the “likely” club to land the star centre.
Read on for the latest NRL Transfer Whispers.
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Brimson to honour Hampson in 2023 | 01:03
TESI’S NIU HOME?
Wayne Bennett has confirmed the Dolphins are in talks with Broncos back Tesi Niu.
Niu has one year to go on his Broncos contract but was recently given permission to seek opportunities elsewhere.
The 21-year-old has played 32 games for Brisbane since debuting in 2020 — 10 of those being at fullback this year. But with Reece Walsh returning to the club, Niu has found himself on the outer.
Speaking at the unveiling of Kayo Stadium on Wednesday, Bennett assured reporters that Ni has not signed yet but the club is “negotiating” with him.
“No, I’m not confident he’ll be a Dolphin in 2023 until he signs a contract,” Bennett said when asked about Niu.
“There’s a number of other players out there we’re negotiating with and talking to (as well).
“I’m not into the politics of it all. (Niu) hasn’t signed a contract, he’s not here. We’re negotiating with him … we just have to be patient and see what happens.”
It comes just over a fortnight after Bennett learnt of Niu’s situation in an interview with News Corp and first declared his interest in the Tongan international.
“I didn’t realise Tesi had been given permission to negotiate with other clubs, but if he is available, yes we’re interested in him,” Bennett said.
“I haven’t seen a lot of Tesi but what I have seen of him, I have liked.
“I didn’t know Brisbane were prepared to let him go but we’ll have a talk internally and make a decision on whether to sign him.
“There’s no deal done with Tesi, but he has something to offer and he is one guy we will look to talk to when the time is right.”
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The Dolphins still have five spots to fill in their Top 30, with spine options still being a priority.
It’s been a tough job assembling the roster with the expansion club missing out on several big-name targets including Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith, which is why Bennett has a realist’s outlook on the roster.
“I don’t think we’ll get anybody there that we want at the moment,” he said.
“We just want quality players and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Two spine players that the club has been able to pick up though are veteran five-eighth Anthony Milford and up-and-coming halfback Sean O’Sullivan, who are tipped to start in the halves come Round 1.
But Bennett has declared “no on is guaranteed a position” and urged the pair to earn their spots in the 17.
“Obviously we brought Sean here because we believe he can be the halfback and we brought Milford here because we believe he can be the five-eighth but they have to prove to me that they’ve learnt that and they’ve got the ability to do that job and if they haven’t, well we’ll make another decision,” he said.
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Dolphins star says side can shock NRL | 01:58
CRICHTON’S DOGS SWITCH LOOKING LIKELY
The Panthers are expected to lose Stephen Crichton in 2024 with the Bulldogs the favourites to sign the star centre.
Crichton’s contract expires at the end of 2023, meaning he is free to negotiate with rivals for 2024 and beyond.
The Panthers would like to keep Crichton, but he is due for a big pay rise along with teammate Brian To’o, who is also coming off contract in 2023.
News Corp journalist Phil Rothfield reported earlier this week that To’o is expected to re-sign as soon as the new salary cap is locked in — but he’s since revealed Crichton will “most likely” sign with the Bulldogs.
Crichton’s been linked to the Bulldogs for months in a move that would see him reunite with former Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo and also get the opportunity to play fullback.