The Warriors have entered the high-stakes scramble to sign blue-chip Brisbane backrower Matt Gillett, according to a report from Fox Sports.
Gold Coast, Manly, Cronulla and St George Illawarra have all gone in hard for Test and Origin star, while the Broncos have their fingers crossed Gillett will stay in Brisbane for less money.
The 27-year-old’s market value is believed to be around the $700,000 mark, but he is currently only on $450,000 with the Broncos. Their tabled upgrade is well short of what he can earn elsewhere.
And the Warriors are in the mix, according to Gillett.
“I might be making the transition across the ditch,” he told Fox Sports News.
When asked if the move was likely or unlikely, he replied: “In between. I know (his contract talks) have been an ongoing thing, going on for a while now.
“For me I just focus on my footy and doing my best for my teammates out on the field.
“I hope I can stay here (Brisbane) and things work out that way but if not it’s going to move on.”
— FOX SPORTS NRL (@FOXNRL) August 24, 2016
Interestingly, Warriors CEO Jim Doyle reportedly told Fox Sports via text message the club has had no contact with Gillett.
The Warriors are strongly tipped as the likely destination for troubled superstar half Kieran Foran – but there is not room under the salary cap for both Foran and Gillett, unless they were to offload two or three players.
The backrow trio of Simon Mannering, Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson at the Warriors is highly regarded – all three are experienced workhorses who provide plenty of punch. But they are similar style players, and Gillett’s dynamic impact would add a new dimension to a Warriors pack that has become far more one-dimensional than we’re used to seeing from the Auckland-based side.
While Gillett’s acquisition would be a massive coup, it would perhaps prove dispiriting for emerging backrow talent such as 2016 debutants Bunty Afoa and Toafofoa Sipley, who shape as long-term first graders.
It would also decrease the chances of off-contract forwards Shaun Lane, Sione Lousi and John Palavi securing new deals.
The Sea Eagles, meanwhile, are believed to be out of the running, with negative feedback about the club said to have turned Gillett off a move to Sydney’s north.
The Sharks, on a major upswing, shape as a genuine option with Paul Gallen looking to retire, and veterans Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington off-contract.
The Titans’ marquee signing of Jarryd Hayne – along with the mid-season pick-ups of Nathan Peats and Konrad Hurrell, and the 2017 arrival of Broncos prop Jarrod Wallace – has clouded their position on making a big play for Gillett, though David Mead’s inevitable departure should free up a bit of cap space.
Brisbane remain the favourite to keep Gillett, however.
“My priority is staying in Brisbane, that’s the goal and has been for a while,” Gillett said to Fox Sports in June.
“I love the club and we’re getting there with just a few more things to be finalised.
“My manager has been handling that side of it and I think we’re getting pretty close.”
Arguably the biggest off-contract star in the NRL, the trump card in the Broncos’ favour – aside from being a vital cog in a premiership-quality roster – is the Bribie Island junior’s young family.
— GeorgeSToelau (@GeeEssTee_23) August 24, 2016
Gillett, who made his NRL debut in 2010, will make his 150th NRL appearance for the Broncos on Friday against Melbourne. He boasts 15 Origins for Queensland and two Tests for Australia, developing into a first-choice member of both teams.