Cowboys balking at new deal for O'Donnell

They may have finally secured captain Johnathan Thurston but the future of representative back-rower Luke O’Donnell will depend on whether North Queensland are willing to meet his significant demands.<br><br>O’Donnell – one of a number of key forwards still off contract – is chasing a four-year deal worth $1 million that would essentially make him a Cowboy for life.<br><br>But it’s believed the club is reluctant to offer him such a lengthy deal and is balking at his $250,000-per-season asking price.<br><br>The Cowboys are secretly concerned by O’Donnell’s recent history with injury and have proposed a smaller, two-year offer which could force the 29-year-old to look elsewhere.<br><br>“We’ve asked for four and we want four, it’s as simple as that,” O’Donnell’s manager Wayne Beavis told NRL.com.<br><br>“They’ve got to come back to us with something now and they haven’t done that as yet so it’s in the lap of the Gods.<br><br>“It will be his last contract, which is why I’ve asked for four years. It’s a career-ending contract and now that’s up to them – he is an integral part of their side so I’d like to think they would want him.”<br><br>The Cowboys have plenty of decisions to make in the coming weeks, with O’Donnell one of four big-name forwards yet to be re-signed.<br><br>Willie Mason, who is enjoying a career resurgence after signing with the club for one year, is expected to be retained, while a decision is yet to be made on both Carl Webb and Steve Southern.<br><br>North Queensland chief executive Peter Parr acknowledges there are a range of issues that will determine whether O’Donnell stays or goes.<br><br>“It’s not just as simple as offering money,” he said. “For someone like Luke, there are decisions for him and his wife Tania about where they want to live, being closer to their families, lifestyle and of course the length of the contract – there are a number of issues.”<br><br>However, Parr bristled at recent suggestions that Thurston’s re-signing would force the club’s hand when it came to who else they could afford to retain.<br><br>“Johnathan hasn’t signed for any more money under the cap than he is on now,” Parr fired. <br><br>“I take offence that everyone thinks that because Johnathan has re-signed it is going to affect what other players will be offered. <br><br>“In Luke’s case, we’ve had preliminary talks with Wayne Beavis and we’re in the process of piecing something together at the moment. <br><br>“Hopefully we will keep him at the club.”<br><br>Asked if he had fielded enquiries from other clubs, Beavis said: “Yep. He won’t be homeless, put it that way.<br><br>“We’ve got no problems with that and the Cowboys know that too – I’ve made them well aware.”<br><br>The Cowboys have already re-signed promising young forward James Tamou to new three-year deal but have lost Steve Rapira who is headed back home to join brother Sam at the Warriors.<br><br>The clubs is still awaiting the return from injury of Southern before deciding on his future.<br><br><b>Late NRL news:</b><br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;O’Donnell and Webb have both been cleared to return against the Warriors in New Zealand tomorrow but Thurston won’t be making a shock return;<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley could start in the halves against the Roosters tomorrow night, with five-eighth Ben Rogers in doubt with a virus. Shannon McDonnell is on standby to come into the squad should Rogers withdraw; and<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Eels rookie Tom Humble is on standby for Parramatta five-eighth Kris Keating. Keating injured his knee during his representative debut for City Origin last Friday night.<br>