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Coates in limbo as market dictates Broncos' bid to bring Gagai home

Maroons flyer Xavier Coates has gone from an Origin III victory to the outer at Red Hill in the space of a week as the Broncos manoeuvre to make South Sydney's Dane Gagai a formal offer.

Coates was a surprise round 19 omission on Tuesday with Jamayne Isaako preferred outside Kotoni Staggs on the right edge for Saturday's clash with Penrith.

He was rested for last weekend's loss to Wests Tigers after playing Origin III, with Staggs confirming the 20-year-old trained at full fitness on Wednesday and had been overlooked on form.

Coates's demotion prompted a question from Melbourne – the team he will join on a two-year deal next season – about an early release prior to August 2, though the Broncos have insisted he will be considered for a recall over the final six weeks of their season.

Meanwhile, veteran Rabbitohs centre Gagai remains on Brisbane's radar amid several moving pieces in their roster.

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South Sydney officials have told NRL.com that the Queensland Origin star is their retention priority over any play for off-contract Broncos playmaker Anthony Milford.

The Rabbitohs have a one-year offer in front of Gagai after Newcastle baulked at the 30-year-old's asking price during recent negotiations.

Brisbane are yet to table a formal offer to the former Bronco as new head of football Ben Ikin and CEO Dave Donaghy sort through a raft of roster implications, not least the impact of paying freight on Tevita Pangai jnr and Matt Lodge to play elsewhere in 2022.

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Market moves before the August 2 transfer deadline could also impact Brisbane's top 30 make-up next season, with Pangai's expected short-term shift to Penrith opening up a spot at Red Hill.

Brisbane are in the market for a veteran forward and are understood to have expressed interest in Canberra prop Ryan James.

Gagai shapes as an experienced option in the same vein as confirmed 2022 signings Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell, as Staggs on Wednesday insisted his touted shift into the halves next season is not a fait accompli.

"I've heard we're interested in [Gagai], he's a good centre, he's been here before and he's played Origin," Staggs said.

"He's one of the older and [most] experienced centres out there, so to have him in the team would be pretty good and he would probably lift the backs and the edges up, bring stuff that he could teach us younger players as well."

Any bid for Gagai, along with Brenko Lee's signing from Melbourne, would likely result in Staggs's five-eighth move fast-tracked next season.

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However Staggs, who is two games into his return from an ACL rupture, played down that suggestion ahead of Saturday's showdown with fellow western NSW product Matt Burton.

"I've answered this question many times," Staggs said.

"Centre is my best position and I've said with a pre-season at five-eighth I might play there, but at the end of the day I'm focused on [playing] centre.

"If Kevvy puts me there he puts me there but I think centre is my main position and I'm thinking about staying there for this season and maybe next.

"I'll always do my job in any position."

He and Isaako will partner again out wide against the Panthers as Coates fills out an extended Broncos bench, though Staggs is hopeful the youngster hasn't played his last game for the club.

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"Xavier is a good winger and a good player,” he said.

"To play Origin, Xavier has to be good, but at the end of the day, the coaching staff makes the call and he is not playing because of the coach‘s reasons.

"We don’t want to change our team every week, we want to stick to the same team and changing the team every week isn’t ideal.

"Hopefully he gets his chance again this season, we have seven games to go so he can slot in there somewhere hopefully in the weeks to come."