North Queensland coach Todd Payten wants Dale Finucane to partner Jason Taumalolo as the NRL's most formidable middle forward pairing if the Cowboys snare the Storm star.
Finucane is the most keenly sought player on the NRL transfer market and Payten outlined on the eve of Friday night's clash with Melbourne how he would use the NSW Origin forward if he joined the Cowboys at the end of the season.
With Cronulla, St George Illawarra, Gold Coast and Newcastle also believed to be trying to prise Finucane away from the Storm, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy admits the club faces an uphill battle to retain him.
The 29-year-old is weighing up the prospect of remaining at a club where he has enjoyed premiership success and earned representative honours, or a big money deal elsewhere before the end of his career.
An announcement is expected after Friday night's Cowboys-Storm match and if Finucane leaves Melbourne, Payten hopes he has done enough to lure him to Townsville after making an offer more than three weeks ago.
"We have tabled a really good offer," Payten said. "I think he would add a lot of value to us as a team, on and off the park. He is a high quality player, he has played Origin, he is tough and he is exactly what we need."
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With Taumalolo contracted to the Cowboys until 2027 and still regarded as the No.1 lock in the game, Payten was asked how he would accommodate Finucane as well.
"They are both on the park at the same time. It would be great for us," he said.
Payten said he had been given no indication when Finucane would make a call on his future and Bellamy wasn't sure either.
However, Bellamy said the Storm were hopeful of hanging on to a player they wanted to keep.
"It's probably not looking too great for us but we will hang in there until the end," Bellamy said.
"We'd love to keep him at the club, there are no divided opinions on that here.
"I don't think we've lost too many bigger, besides Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk. I can't think of too many other players that we've wanted to keep more than Dale, if he does leave.
"I put him up there in that sort of category. I don't know how you measure losing him, but it'll be a great loss, both on and off the field."
Meanwhile, Payten said the loss of teen star Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was a blow for the Cowboys after he underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix on Wednesday.
Tabuai-Fidow made his Origin debut in Queensland's 22-20 win last Wednesday and starred at fullback for the Cowboys against Sydney Roosters on the weekend.
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"He had a stomach ache on Monday, on Tuesday it gradually got worse and on Tuesday night he didn't sleep well, or at all," Payten said.
"He has gone to see the doctor and the doctor sent him to emergency to get some bloods and a CT scan, and as a result he is in for surgery. He trained both days, so he is a tough kid.
"If it had burst, he was in some real trouble, so we dodged a bullet there."
Tabuai-Fidow is expected to be sidelined for six weeks but Payten said he would have no hesitation playing him in the final round of the season if the Cowboys were unable to make the finals.
"It is all about development and if all of our guys are fit and ready we need to roll out our best teams so we can play good footy," Payten said.
"He has had a really interrupted season, he has missed six weeks with a syndesmosis [injury], he had a head knock where he has missed a game, he has been in and out during that Origin period and every time he has come back he hasn't missed a beat.
"I guess that gives you a good look at the type of talent he has as a kid so I am really looking forward to getting some continuity in his footy to see where he ends up.
"We have only scratched the surface, he is starting to believe more and more in himself, he is starting to be more professional in what he does in and around the facility so that will only hold him in good stead moving forward."