Sam Kasiano could be the first contracted Bulldog to leave Belmore as part of the club’s roster overhaul after Melbourne made a play for the hulking prop.
The Storm is desperate to bolster its forward pack and have identified Kasiano as the man to help fill the void. The ladder leaders rarely attempt to recruit an established star but are making an exception as they brace for the departure of Blues hopeful Jordan McLean (Cowboys) and Kiwi international Tohu Harris (Warriors) just a year after losing Kevin Proctor to the Gold Coast.
Cooper Cronk’s decision to shift to Sydney also frees up salary cap space for the club to make a play for a big-name forward for the first time since luring Michael Crocker from the Roosters in 2006.
Kasiano is contracted to Canterbury until the end of 2018, but the club will need to shed stars, contracted or otherwise, to refresh its playing list. Coach Des Hasler is keen to retain the New Zealand and Samoan international but something has to give after the club confirmed the signing of Kieran Foran on Wednesday. Kasiano is one of several players on a back-ended deal, meaning his departure could be a win for the Bulldogs and the Storm.
A move south will also give Kasiano the opportunity to start games, a scenario which is no chance of happening when Woods arrives at the “family club” next year. The Bulldogs are unlikely to stand in Kasiano’s way if he is able to secure himself a long-term deal that sets up his future.
Josh Reynolds’ shift to Wests Tigers in 2018 will free up some salary cap space, while Will Hopoate and Michael Lichaa are yet to secure a home for next season. However, Canterbury is facing the prospect of bidding farewell to more players if the NRL doesn’t budge on its initial salary cap proposal to the Rugby League Players’ Association as part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
Skipper James Graham, on a deal worth the best part of $1 million for 2018, has been identified as another player that could be squeezed out. Cashed-up Newcastle is watching the situation with interest after missing out on a number of potential recruits including Matt Scott, Dale Finucane, Matt Prior and Jack Bird. Halfback Moses Mbye has been shopped to rivals, while there has also been conjecture over the future of the Morris twins, Brett and Josh.
The Storm were one of Foran’s suitors, but the New Zealand international chose Canterbury to be closer to his two young children. The Storm have also missed out on Anthony Milford, who has recommitted to the Broncos.
Foran has a strong relationship with Hasler from their time together at Manly and came agonisingly close to rejoining his former mentor the last two times he was off contract.
“I know that family was a determining priority in Kieran’s decision,” Hasler said.
“He could have chosen to go to a handful of Sydney clubs, so we are pleased that he has chosen to continue his career at the Bulldogs.”
The Tigers and Cowboys are both keen on adding Tuimoala Lolohea to their roster immediately and are hopeful the Warriors will grant him an immediate release. The out-of-favour playmaker would slot in for the injured Johnathan Thurston if he shifts to Townsville, while a transfer to the Tigers would allow Mitchell Moses an early move to Parramatta.