Titans’ shock move in Staggs chase
The Titans have sensationally pulled a big-money offer to Kotoni Staggs as the Broncos close in on securing the off-contract Brisbane sensation to a $2.8 million extension.
But the retention of Staggs could come at a cost with Brisbane teammate Matt Lodge being shopped around for the second time in six months as a rival NRL club circles the Broncos' most senior front-rower.
News Corp can reveal the Titans' poaching bid for Staggs is over with the Gold Coast withdrawing a three-year deal, worth around $2.1 million, in the lead-up to their clash against Souths on Friday night.
Speculation was rife Staggs was poised to walk out on the Broncos and follow David Fifita to the Titans but the Gold Coast had no interest in getting into a bidding war for the NSW Origin hopeful.
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Titans culture boss Mal Meninga held talks with Staggs but Gold Coast chiefs were not convinced the Tongan Test star was serious about leaving Red Hill.
The Eels have offered Staggs around $800,000 a season and as part of their sales pitch, have outlined the potential for the Brisbane ace to compete for titles at a club that has made the top five three times in the past four seasons.
But as revealed by News Corp last week, Staggs has told Brisbane teammates he plans to stay loyal and the Titans' withdrawal is a huge boost in Broncos coach Kevin Walters' retention battle.
Whether Lodge remains an equally critical part of Brisbane's future remains to be seen.
It is understood a rival NRL club has contacted Lodge's management in recent weeks to discuss a possible transfer deal with Brisbane, who initially looked into an early release for the hulking prop last November.
This time, the Broncos are not driving the Lodge transfer issue. Brisbane are not aware of the identity of the club, who are keen to know how much the Broncos might contribute as part of a subsidised release.
Lodge was outstanding in last week's 20-12 loss to Penrith, but with the prop on an estimated $750,000 this season, he is under pressure to keep performing after his injury-plagued past 12 months.
The 25-year-old has been linked with a move to Townsville, but the Cowboys insist they will not be signing Lodge.
Over summer, the Warriors were keen to snare Lodge, but baulked at the cost of the transfer deal given that he is contracted to Brisbane until the end of 2024, including a two-year option in his favour.
Walters dismissed suggestions he is looking to offload Lodge but challenged the Penrith junior to maintain his form considering his high ranking in Brisbane's salary cap.
"Matt has a contract with us and I'm honouring it," he said.
"I'm not sure which clubs are keen on him.
"Matt played his best game in a while last week, the rule changes have made it harder on the big fellas and Matt has had to adjust to the game speed.
"He had a few injuries last year which was unfortunate so Matt has to get fitter and keep playing well."
BULLDOGS' BOLD BID TO SNARE CULT FIGURE
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Incoming Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon has been confronted with his second migraine in two days after a cashed-up Canterbury target Cronulla's star forward Tony Rudolf.
It comes after revelations halfback Chad Townsend is set to quit the Sharks for a rich three-year deal at North Queensland worth a cool $2m.
Rudolf, 25, off-contract at Cronulla after this season, has logged some amazing statistics in 2021, including running for an average of 125 metres a game and completing 31 tackles each round. He is playing an average of 69 minutes every match.
Canterbury is desperately chasing a middle forward and have identified Rudolf as a player that could fill a concerning void.
Rudolf's manager Sam Ayoub did not want to comment on Canterbury's approach other than to say: "We have had an inquiry about his availability".
It is understood Cronulla is aware of Canterbury's interest.
The Sharks have also expressed a strong desire to retain Rudolf, labelling him a "priority".
While he is focused on the Roosters this year, Fitzgibbon is known to be a huge fan of Rudolf. Sharks management is expected to meet with Rudolf shortly.
Canterbury has not lodged a formal offer for Rudolf or stepped up discussions just yet. Storm hooker Brandon Smith is another on the Bulldogs hit list.
The Bulldogs will have a roster cleanout after this season, freeing up some big money for the club to be heavily active on the player market.
Rudolf is one of 15 players coming off-contract at Cronulla after this season. Others include Matt Moylan, Shaun Johnson, Josh Dugan, Aaron Woods, William Kennedy and Connor Tracey.
Last year the New Zealand Warriors made an unsuccessful bid for Rudolf, who signed a one-year extension at Cronulla in September.
With Townsend seemingly on his way out, there is continuing speculation that South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds may end up at Cronulla.
But Reynolds' manager, Steve Gillis, insists neither he nor Reynolds have had any contact with Fitzgibbon. While not wanting to comment publicly, Gold Coast and Wests Tigers have ruled out chasing Reynolds.
"We will continue to work through the process. Adam is in no hurry," Gillis said.
"He is playing extremely well and is contributing on a weekly basis on and off the field. His focus is playing well for Souths each week - the rest will sort itself out."
Rudolf is a Souths junior who played for North Sydney before shifting to Queensland to represent the Redcliffe Dolphins.
Originally published as Transfer Watch: Titans' shock move in Staggs chase