Bitter rivals engage in war to land Fifita
BITTER rivals the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs are locked in a multi-million dollar battle to sign boom Brisbane Broncos forward David Fifita.
The Roosters are set to use money made available following the retirement of champion halfback Cooper Cronk to lure the teenager to Bondi.
The Rabbitohs are likely to have space in their salary cap with the expected medical retirement of Sam Burgess to pitch for the barnstorming forward.
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Fifita is rated by many sound judges as the next Sonny Bill Williams, a stunning appraisal considering he is still a raw teenager who has played only 35 NRL games.
The 19-year-old has already played representative football for Queensland, the Prime Minister's XIII, Indigenous All Stars and Australia in the World Cup Nines.
Fifita will play for the Junior Kangaroos against France in Wollongong.
The Roosters and Rabbitohs are among 10 clubs who have expressed an interest for when Fifita can officially begin negotiations with rival clubs on Friday week, November 1.
Working in South Sydney's favour is the tight relationship with seven-time premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett from their days at the Broncos.
At the same time Roosters coach Trent Robinson has become a magnet for the game's best young players because of his impressive record including three premierships in just seven years.
There is also the Nick Politis influence and the fact the billionaire automotive tycoon rarely misses out on a player he desperately wants.
Fifita's manager Steve Deacon is cautiously trying to avoid a media circus.
"There has been enough said about the matter (his contract) at this stage," Deacon said, "He's got other things to concentrate on at the moment."
Fifita has previously spoken about modelling his game on Burgess.
Fifita talked to Rabbitohs coach Bennett at the World Cup Nines last weekend.
"Wayne, he's my first coach … a really good coach for me and my family," Fifita said this week.
"He helped me become the person I am. He really played a massive part in my career, my first pre-season. We had good, tough conversations to get me to where I am."
There's no question that Fifita could join the game's highest paid players - Kangaroos halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and St George Illawarra's Bent Hunt who are both on $1.2 million - at the back end of a new contract.
The Roosters are mindful of the fact their Australian and NSW captain Boyd Cordner and champion fullback James Tedesco need to be their highest paid players.
Other players from the grand final need to be upgraded as well, including centre Latrell Mitchell and outstanding young hooker Sam Verrills.
However they will not pay ridiculous money for Mitchell if another club comes in with a monster offer.
Some will suggest the Fifita interest is another example of suspicious Roosters salary cap dealings.
However the NRL is satisfied they have the room for 2021, as is the case at other clubs.
At the same time there is enormous pressure on the Broncos and coach Anthony Seibold to convince Fifita to stay.
Working in their favour is their Brisbane network of third parties, the most lucrative in the game, which would allow the club to put the giant forward in the cap at a lower rate than rivals.