Canterbury have kick-started one of biggest signing sprees in the club’s history as they attempt to retain almost $3 million worth of talent beyond 2020.
On the back of an impressive finish to the 2019 season, NRL.com understands the Bulldogs are set to announce a number of key re-signings in the coming weeks as they look to extend the contracts of at least half a dozen players.
Headlining that list is Kiwi international Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who is on the verge of announcing a two-year extension at the Bulldogs until the end of 2022.
Watene-Zelezniak, who signed an 18-month contract with Canterbury after departing Penrith mid-season, was a revelation for the Bulldogs since his switch and is expected to be rewarded with a new deal in the coming weeks.
The 24-year-old fullback, who has already played 116 NRL games since his Telstra Premiership debut as a teenager in 2014, finished the year as one of the form players of the competition despite his struggles earlier in the year at the Panthers.
Canterbury are also expected to be bolstered by the retention of Will Hopoate and exciting youngster Reimis Smith - two of Canterbury’s best players in a vastly improved 2019 season.
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Smith played 23 of the club’s 24 games this season, while Hopoate has played in every game for Canterbury the past two years.
The Bulldogs have also opened discussions with skipper Josh Jackson and Adam Elliott, both now free to accept formal offers from rival clubs as part of the NRL’s November 1 anti-tampering rule.
While negotiations with the pair aren’t as developed as some of the previous names mentioned, the Bulldogs are hopeful both players will re-commit to the club by the time the first ball is kicked in March.
The club has also indicated it would like to retain half Lachlan Lewis, one of 17 Bulldogs players who became free agents on Friday as they come off contract at the end of next season.
Only one player, back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera, is contracted beyond the end of 2021 at the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have also been linked with Sydney Roosters superstar Latrell Mitchell, with Fox Sports reporting that a person linked to Canterbury is believed to have met with the Australian centre about a possible switch.
Canterbury are also in the market for Broncos young gun David Fifita about a potential switch despite Brisbane's confidence he will remain at Red Hill.
After a couple of years of struggle, shedding millions of dollars worth of talent, the Bulldogs are finally in a position to be huge players in the marketplace.
Their first priority is to retain the core of the squad they believe will lead the club into a successful new era, with several key announcements expected in the coming weeks.