Brisbane coach Kevin Walters has confirmed discussions are underway for Tom Dearden to join North Queensland immediately with the young halfback appearing to say farewells to staff at Red Hill on Wednesday.
Dearden and Walters shared a short conversation with multiple handshakes and pats on the back prior to the captain's run in an apparent sign he has played his last game for the Broncos.
An early shift to the Cowboys would free up Jake Clifford's own pre-emptive release to join Newcastle, with the Knights also in talks with Brisbane around securing prop Matt Lodge for an immediate move to the Hunter.
Walters said after training that Dearden - who has signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys from 2022 onwards - was still a Bronco, but talks were underway in regards to his immediate future.
"I don’t have an update, there is some discussions happening around that but I don’t believe anything is happening and nothing has come to fruition just yet so at the moment Tommy is still a Bronco," Walters said.
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Asked specifically if Dearden had requested an immediate release, Walters said his focus was only on Thursday’s game with Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium, but when pressed further said he would consider the move.
"I’m not sure [if request has been made], I’m just head down bum up this week with short preparation to get into the Storm game so I’m not aware of what’s happening outside that circle," Walters said.
"That would be something we have to look at certainly, but he is here at the moment which is a good thing, he is a good kid and that’s all I can say about it."
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Lodge, meanwhile, was told by Walters earlier this year that he is free to find another club as Brisbane look to rejig a roster that is heavy on well-paid forwards.
NRL.com understands discussions between the Broncos and Knights have centred on how much freight Brisbane is willing to contribute to Lodge's reported $800,000 salary, with Newcastle's interest hinging on securing the 25-year-old at a significantly reduced rate.
The Knights are confident Clifford – who was already committed to the club for 2022 and '23 – will be in red and blue over the next week after playing in North Queensland's home clash with the Warriors on Friday.
The Cowboys have stressed that move is contingent on Dearden arriving early given Ben Hampton's long-term pec injury leaves them without any other experienced halves options besides Clifford.
Newcastle had only one roster spot free – and designated for Clifford – until Blake Green's retirement on Tuesday night opened up top 30 room that could accommodate Lodge.
The 117-kilo prop has been in impressive touch since returning from injury and has a two-year Broncos option in his favour on top of his 2022 deal at Red Hill.
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Lodge is serving a one-game ban that rules him out of Thursday's clash with Melbourne and is believed to have told Broncos officials he wants to make the move.
But Walters said on Wednesday he does not think the big man is finished yet in Brisbane.
"I don’t believe so. He is obviously suspended at the moment but we expect to have him back for the St George [Illawarra] game in a bit over a week," he said.
"At the moment he is still playing here and that’s good for us. We’re enjoying having him play and I believe last week against the Roosters was probably his best performance for the club.
"It’s all good for Lodgey at the moment, he is still here and playing well which is a good outcome for both Lodgey and us, of course."
Walters expects Lodge's replacement Rhys Kennedy to be fit to take on Melbourne despite sitting out Brisbane's captain's run due to a virus.