The Redcliffe Dolphins are targeting another multimillion-dollar raid on the Melbourne Storm with the NRL’s 17th team identifying Harry Grant, Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes as priority targets.
The Storm are aware of the Dolphins’ approach to the representative trio with chairman Matt Tripp adamant Melbourne will fight tooth and nail to try and keep the nucleus of the Purple Reign juggernaut together.
The Dolphins chances of landing all three superstars is about 66/1 and drifting but the Redcliffe-based outfit will be more than content to secure the signature of one on the trio.
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Grant went to Queensland to meet with Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett and recruitment guru Peter O’Sullivan earlier this month with the NRL’s 17th team initially bullish about their chances of landing the Maroons Origin hooker.
But the Storm have upped the ante with a deal believed to be in excess of $ 1 million per season, for three seasons, to try and retain the Melbourne hooker identified years ago as the heir apparent to Cameron Smith.
Kiwi halfback Hughes’ management will fly to Melbourne on Thursday to enter the latest round of negotiations as the Storm move to ward off supercoach Bennett’s latest raid.
Hughes – widely regarded as the second best halfback in the NRL behind Nathan Cleary – is seeking an upgrade for 2023 and a five-year extension with the Storm.
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The Dolphins were told they would need to offer close to $ 1 million per season to secure Hughes.
The Munster negotiations remain a work-in-progress with the Storm five-eighth enjoying an extremely close rapport with Tripp after the Melbourne chairman saved the Queensland and Australian five-eighth when other directors were pushing to tear up his contract at the end of last season.
Grant, Hughes and Munster are all off contract at the end of 2023 with the Dolphins unable to table official offers until November 1 this year.
But the Dolphins have lodged expressions of interest on all three over the course of the last two months with Redcliffe having already signed the Storm trio of Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich and Kenny Bromwich for 2023.
Will the Storm be able to keep all three representative stars? That’s the million-dollar question and explains why the Dolphins are targeting the trio.
Grant or Munster would be the ideal marquee recruit for the Dolphins with the proud Queenslanders pair who hail from Rockhampton.
Munster and Tripp played golf in Melbourne on Tuesday ahead of tonight’s blockbuster clash when the Storm host South Sydney in what will be coach Craig Bellamy’s 500th NRL match.
DOLPHINS ‘COACHING SUCCESSION PLAN
The other significant play the Dolphins have in motion is trying to convince the highly-rated Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo to come on board as supercoach Wayne Bennett’s understudy.
Similar to the way Jason Demetriou spent a couple of years working alongside Bennett before stepping into the head coaching position at the Rabbitohs, the Dolphins are eyeing Ciraldo as the ideal replacement once Bennett eventually decides to hang his gloves up.
Ciraldo is hugely-popular among the Penrith players and was the architect of the Panthers finishing last season as the NRL’s best defensive side.
The Panthers averaged only 11.9 points scored against them across 24 games throughout the regular season last year.
In the finals series it was even less when the premiers averaged 10 points against them per game on the way to claiming the NRL title.
EX-STORM FLYER EYEING NRL RETURN
South Sydney are still quietly weighing up making another play to sign ex-Melbourne Storm flyer Suliasi Vunivalu prior to the August 1 trade deadline.
Souths powerbrokers met with Vunivalu in Byron Bay over the course of the summer but fell short of his $ 650,000-a-season asking price.
The premiership-winning Vunivalu is currently playing Super Rugby with the Queensland Reds with the season due to finish at the end of May.
If Vunivalu fails to force his way into the Wallabies set-up then don’t be surprised if the Bunnies have another crack at trying to lure him to Redfern for the remainder of this year.
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BRITISH BULLDOG LEADS THE WAY
The Bulldogs celebrated their first round one victory since 2016 with a few quiet beers inside the dressing sheds at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
It might have been a bludger of a game in testing humidity but it was impossible to ignore the contribution of English international Luke Thompson.
Thompson ran 7kms over the course of the game including 15 hit-ups for 122m and 39 tackles as the Bulldogs started the season on a winning note.
Given all the scrutiny on the club leading into the round one, Canterbury-Bankstown just needed grit their way to collecting the two points.
The Bulldogs welcome back Tevita Pangai Junior for Sunday’s match against Adam Reynolds-led Broncos but have lost young gun center Paul Alamoti for the opening month of the season with a syndesmosis injury.