Transfer Window: Storm star’s $1m dilemma
Premiership-winning Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes is weighing up a potential $1 million sacrifice as Melbourne pieces together a succession plan for departing super coach Craig Bellamy.
Hughes is one of the NRL's most in-demand free agents after playing a pivotal role in last year's premiership triumph.
The New Zealand international has attracted interest from numerous rival clubs, some prepared to pay up to $900,000-a-season to lure him out of Melbourne.
While the Storm are keen to retain Hughes they will not be forking out that sort of cash, with Melbourne's offer expected to be in the vicinity of $600-700,000-a-season.
At 26, Hughes is looking for a long-term deal to give him some security after finding his feet in Melbourne over the past four years.
That means the former Titan and Cowboy could be looking at a major financial sacrifice to remain in Melbourne.
Another huge factor in deciding his future will be who takes the reins at Melbourne when Bellamy departs at the end of the 2021 NRL season.
Bellamy has interest from the Brisbane Broncos to take up a coaching director role, with Melbourne keen to have him remain involved with the Storm.
Hughes has flourished under Bellamy's tutelage and ideally would like to know who will be coaching Melbourne next year before he decides his future.
Storm football chief Frank Ponissi said Melbourne was hopeful of retaining Hughes.
"Talks were pretty promising before Christmas, it's still early days but they were promising," he said.
"We're hopeful and things were positive. We will take it up again now.
"We're confident he will stay. So far the discussions have been really positive and there's nothing to suggest we should be concerned.
"Hopefully by the start of the season we can come to something. Both parties are comfortable with where the position is now."
LODGE STAYING PUT - FOR NOW
Speculation has been rife that Brisbane Broncos prop Matt Lodge will be exiting the club.
But that may not be for some time, with Lodge heavily involved at Broncos' training this week.
Lodge has been one of Brisbane's main middle forwards in training sessions and talks have slowed down over his potential move from Red Hill.
With four years to run on his contract, shifting Lodge was never going to be an easy task.
The Broncos were facing a huge payout to move him on and it looks like he will remain at the club for now.
That could change quickly though if a suitable deal arises for Lodge.
KENNEL CLEAN-OUT ON THE CARDS
The Bulldogs have the ability to conduct a $4 million roster purge as new coach Trent Barrett weighs up the futures of 15 Canterbury players.
The Bulldogs have half of their squad coming off-contract this year, giving Barrett the freedom to make wholesale changes at Belmore after the club finished 15th last season.
Barrett has already landed key signings for 2022 in Storm star Josh Addo-Carr and Penrith's Matt Burton.
And Canterbury is expected to be a major player in the recruitment market over the coming months as a number of current players fight for their NRL futures.
Among the 15 players off-contract this year is former State of Origin stars Will Hopoate and Dylan Napa while the likes of Jayden Okunbor, Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King are also looking for new deals.
TITAN TAYLOR ON TRACK
Gold Coast Titans halfback Ash Taylor is nearing full fitness as he chases a new contract.
Taylor underwent hip and wrist surgery in the off-season after battling through much of the 2020 season in pain.
He is now in the final year of his $1 million-a-season contract, which has proven to be quite a burden at times.
Taylor is facing a hefty pay cut to remain at the Gold Coast in 2022 and is unlikely to command that sort of money elsewhere.
Coach Justin Holbrook said all his No. 7 had to focus on was continuing his solid finish to last year as he chases a new deal.
"He just needs to keep playing well, that's about all, there is nothing I'm unhappy with," he said.
"He finished the year great. I thought he played okay all year.
"We weren't playing good as a team early in the year but he really found his part in the side as the year went on and did a great job.
"He's doing really well with his rehab. He's running freely now.
"He's had a disrupted pre-season with having both of his hips and wrist done. He did well to finish the season the way he did considering he was in a fair bit of pain in those areas.
"It's good to get him back on the field for a fair bit of the skills stuff now and he will integrate more."
Originally published as Transfer Window: Storm star's $1m dilemma