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Welch on Eels radar as several clubs shop for props

Parramatta are set to pursue Storm prop Christian Welch amid front-row upheaval for several props across the game. understands the Maroons selection candidate is well and truly on the Eels' radar, however the club hasn't given up hope of snaring another Origin hopeful, potential Blues prop Matt Lodge, despite expectations he will re-sign with Brisbane.

The futures of fellow off-contract front-rowers George Burgess (Rabbitohs), Max King (Titans), Herman Ese'ese (Newcastle), Tim Mannah (Eels) and Russell Packer (Wests Tigers) are being evaluated leading into the June 30 player movement deadline.

Lodge has fielded a healthy Eels offer to move back to Western Sydney ahead of Saturday's clash with Parramatta at Bankwest Stadium.

But the Broncos are confident they will retain Lodge on an upgraded deal beyond 2020, with the Eels understood to have turned their attention back to the market, focusing on Welch. understands that following what was initially feared to be a season-ending ACL rupture, Welch and Melbourne agreed to extend the deadline on his 2020 player option to remain at the club.

Welch has since returned to the field and contention for a Queensland Origin call-up to replace Joe Ofahengaue for game two, having recovered from what ended up being a four-week knee injury.

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He has also linked with player agent George Mimis after indicating he would negotiate his next deal himself.

It's believed the Storm are more than happy for Welch to still take up his option, but won't deny him a release for next season should a regular starting role and a better deal be presented by a rival club.

The Eels had been hopeful of securing front-row reinforcements in the wake of Tim Mannah's impending move to the Wests Tigers, but are also willing to wait until next season for the right individual.

Asked if he was hunting for a forward leader before Saturday's showdown with Lodge and the Broncos, Brad Arthur said: "We want all our forwards to stand up. I think it's hard to rely on one person all the time.

"Nathan Brown [comes] back into the fold and I thought we got more time out of him last week than we were expecting. He's a natural leader for us. Young Reed [Mahoney] is trying to step up with his leadership, we've got blokes there that are trying to step up, we just need to make sure we've got a collective group doing it every week."

Meanwhile Melbourne are set to sign King from the Gold Coast on an 18-month deal in the next few days. 

The Titans forward's move to the Victorian capital will make the 22-year-old available for Storm selection after next week's rep round bye.

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Kiwi international Kenny Bromwich is also understood to have taken up his player option with Melbourne for next season as both parties enter negotiations around a longer-term extension.

Ese'ese had also been discussed as a pre-June 30 signing option at Parramatta and the Tigers but a prohibitive Knights exit fee has cooled interest in the Samoan international.

The Tigers have also been unsuccessful in shopping former Kiwi international Russell Packer to rivals, with the one-time club captain sidelined by a hip injury since being dropped to the Canterbury Cup over a month ago.

As for Burgess, the English international says he is unconcerned by his contract status and is willing to remain in the "shop window" until October if need be.

Burgess knocked back a lucrative Eels offer at the start of the year and is no chance of being released by the Rabbitohs prior to June 30.

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But he faces an uphill battle to earn a new Souths deal and stay at Redfern alongside brothers Sam and Tom beyond 2019, who recently extended their long-term contracts.

"I'll give myself up until October if I need to do that," Burgess said earlier this week.

"There's been interest from NRL [clubs] and from England. For me I don't want to make a decision yet.

"I suppose it does [motivate me]. You've got to keep playing, keep putting yourself in the shop window for this club or for other clubs.

"If they want to think about having you for a longer term you've got to put your best football on the park."

One prop who won't be on the move is Sharks young gun Braden Hamlin-Uele, who has re-signed until the end of 2022 despite interest from the Warriors.

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