The race to sign Jai Arrow will intensify this week after the Gold Coast gave their star forward permission to negotiate with rival clubs immediately.
NRL.com can reveal the Titans have put forward a lucrative four-year deal, believed to be around the $3 million mark, to keep the Queensland Origin representative beyond 2020.
However Arrow has told the Titans he wants to wait until he hits the open market on November 1 before making a decision.
In a bid to fast-track negotiations, the Titans have granted Arrow’s management permission to receive offers before November 1 from rival clubs for 2021 in the hope of sorting out their future sooner than originally expected.
Both parties don’t want to sit on their hands for the next two months just waiting for the date to tick over to begin negotiations and have agreed it is in the best interests of all involved to kick off proceedings immediately.
The news is expected to ignite a bidding frenzy over the coming weeks for one of the game’s most sought-after forwards.
Parramatta and the Bulldogs are two of the most cashed-up clubs in 2021 and are keen on luring the 24-year-old to Sydney.
Arrow is contracted with the Gold Coast until the end of next season and the club would like to upgrade his final year, however the Titans’ current salary cap situation makes it almost impossible for them to do so unless other players were to move on.
NRL.com understands his preference is to remain on the Gold Coast but is open to testing his value on the open market and potentially moving away if the right deal comes along.
The Titans, who have not made an official statement on Arrow's negotiations, recently identified the lock, fullback AJ Brimson and 19-year-old prop Moeaki Fotuaika as their priority retention targets, extending the deal of the latter earlier this week until the end of 2022.
Storm to lock in key positions for finals
Whoever the Storm name at fullback and halfback against the Cowboys in the final round will be the players that run out in those positions in the first week of the finals.
The future of Brodie Croft has been a topic of great conjecture after the club said he was "rested" against the Titans last week.
Melbourne are always trying to improve and wanted to experiment with Ryan Papenhuyzen at fullback and Jahrome Hughes in the halves in the hope of adding another dimension to their attack.
Internally, the plan was always to test it for two weeks and reassess after this Saturday’s game against Manly.
However, if Papenhuyzen proves he is the best option for the finals, it’s likely Croft’s long-term future at the Storm will come under the microscope.
The Storm don’t have a lot of wriggle room in their salary cap for next year and may be looking to clear some space in the off-season.
Croft has another year to run with a mutual club-player option the following year.
Flying visit suits Eels
Parramatta will take the unusual approach of travelling interstate on the day of the game for Friday night’s clash with the Broncos.
Traditionally, teams fly at least a day before the game when they travel for away games, however the Eels experimented with the game-day flight against the Titans a couple of weeks ago with success.
In 2018, the Eels lost six of seven non-Sydney games – the only win coming when they travelled to Darwin for their home game a few days out from the match.
This year they have a similarly bad record, losing four of five non-Sydney games (their only victory in Darwin) prior to the win over the Titans in round 22.
The string of losses this year included the 64-10 annihilation at the hands of Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium during Magic Round in May.
Parramatta have this week also put out an advertisement to find a replacement for Bernie Gurr as chief executive of the club.
Furner's assistance in demand
It appears the Titans may be forced to search for another assistant coach.
Former Canberra coach David Furner flew to the Gold Coast last week to discuss the possibility of joining the Titans as Justin Holbrook’s assistant from next year.
The Titans were convinced he was the right man for the job, however many at the club were surprised when they found out he was in Newcastle on Wednesday interviewing for the role of Adam O’Brien’s assistant.
There’s also a job going at the Wests Tigers as Michael Maguire’s assistant after he informed Craig Sandercock his services wouldn’t be required next year.
O'Brien given job security at Knights
Still on the coaching merry-go-round and it seems the Newcastle Knights will offer Adam O’Brien a three-year deal.
Despite signing Nathan Brown to a performance-based contract, no such deal will be done with the new coach.
It was hoped the deal would be done by the end of the week but it looks like that will be put back another week as they finalise the terms of the deal.
Billy on the boil at Tigers
The Wests Tigers are expected to announce the signing of Billy Walters in the coming days. Walters, the son of Queensland coach Kevin Walters, will be brought to the Tigers as a back-up for Benji Marshall next year.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.