St George Illawarra halfback Adam Clune has hosed down speculation linking him with a move to North Queensland as the Dragons prepare for their biggest challenge of the season against Parramatta on Sunday.
Clune, who had a break-out season with St George Illawarrra last year, stepped in for injured skipper Ben Hunt to steer the team to a third consecutive win in Newcastle last weekend and he is reportedly being eyed off by the struggling Cowboys.
North Queensland lock Josh McGuire has been given permission to seek a new club next season and the Dragons appear to be the front-runners to sign him due to his relationship with coach Anthony Griffin, but the club wants to keep Clune.
A Shellharbour junior, Clune said he had been taken aback by reports that the Cowboys were interested in him to replace McGuire as halfback Jake Clifford has signed with the Knights and captain Michael Morgan is considering retirement.
“I actually had some of my family members come to me and say what is this about and I told them it was the first I’d heard of it,” Clune said.
“It is a bit of a new experience for me, obviously being fresh in this arena. There’s nothing really in it, it’s just rumours.”
Every try from round 4
With a contract until the end of next season, Clune’s immediate focus is on Sunday night’s match against the unbeaten Eels at Bankwest Stadium and continuing to develop his play-making partnership with five-eighth Corey Norman.
Hunt is sidelined for six weeks after playing 71 minutes with a fractured fibula in the round three defeat of Manly but boom play-maker Jayden Sullivan is set to push for a place in the NRL team after overcoming a pre-season hamstring injury.
“Me and Normy just want to keep working together and in the second half [against Newcastle] it felt like we did that,” Clune said.
“It was obviously a tough game and it will be the same this week. We are up against a big pack so we are going to have to put in for the full 80 minutes.”
The match will be the 100th NRL appearance for former Parramatta prop Daniel Alvaro, while Trent Merrin plays his 150th match for St George Illawarra.
Dragons centre Brayden Williame said the Eels were one of the benchmark teams in the Telstra Premiership but he believed the Red V could end Parramatta’s winning streak, while extending their own.
“It’s probably our biggest challenge yet but if we can keep improving on what we have dished up each week so far we will be in or around it in the 80th minute, I reckon,” Williame said.
Merrin agreed and said he was looking forward to celebrating his milestone in front of a big crowd after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in NSW.
Defy impossible: The leap
“Parramatta have been a top four team every year for the last few years and they are getting hungry to get to the top so they are going to be a massive challenge for us,” Merrin said.
“They have been outstanding this year and the last few years so they are definitely the benchmark to come up against and we are doing everything we can to prepare and hopefully get the job done.
“I had goose bumps last week against Newcastle and to get heckled by the crowd, that’s a different beast when you fill up the stadium.
“It is definitely going to be the same this week with the Parramatta fans, and they are probably more ruthless to be honest so it is something we have got to prepare for and expect.”
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