WESTS TIGERS have emerged out of nowhere as leading contenders for the signature of New Zealand international forward Adam Blair, and they could land him in the next week.
Blair, who turned 25 yesterday, has been the subject of interest from Parramatta, Canterbury and the Sydney Roosters - his management is understood to be asking for more than $500,000 a season for him.
However, the Bulldogs and Roosters have already exited the race for the hottest forward on the NRL market, and the Herald has been told the Eels’ prospects of landing Blair have slipped due to the surprise entry of the Tigers into the market.
The Storm’s only hope of keeping him would be if he accepted a significantly less attractive salary to stay in Melbourne.
‘‘We have had a chat to Adam Blair’s manager,’’ Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys said. ''We think he’s a fantastic player and we’ve expressed interest in him. We’ve left it in their court.
‘‘It’ll just be a matter of them sifting through the various possibilities for Adam. We’re hopeful of hearing something in the next week.’’
The Tigers have kept a low profile in the player market in the past year, concentrating on the development and retention of their younger and existing players. Their only signing this year was winger Matt Utai, and he is on an incentive-based, second-tier deal.
They have been patiently waiting for the right marquee player to become available and Blair is considered to be an ideal fit. An obvious appeal for the Kiwis vice-captain is the presence at Concord Oval of his captain at international level, Benji Marshall. They have played together for their country since 2008, leading the team to victories in the World Cup and Four Nations. However, in the Eels’ favour is coach Stephen Kearney, the current Kiwis and ex-assistant Storm mentor.
The Bulldogs and the Roosters have found themselves priced out of the market for Blair. Canterbury have already splurged on forwards this year by adding Aiden Tolman, Greg Eastwood and Frank Pritchard to their pack.
The Storm have made a preliminary offer to Blair but admit they cannot match the deals on offer. Their argument for Blair to stay relies on his senior status at the club and the degree to which his career has skyrocketed there since he signed his existing three-year year deal.
Blair has been enlisted by the club as a member of the Storm’s ‘‘big four’’ since the departure of Greg Inglis to South Sydney, and is now in the top group in Craig Bellamy’s two-tier leadership system alongside Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.
‘‘He’s a priority for us to retain but we’re realistic of the situation,’’ Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said. ‘‘We know it’s going to be challenging to keep him but we remain hopeful.’’
Melbourne are also in a battle with the Eels for their young winger Matt Duffie. They are confident he will stay after offering him a three-year contract. Others off contract at the club are Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hinchcliffe and Gareth Widdop.
I think a few players like brown, daniela flanagan and moors may be let go, not that I agree with it. Maybe even Payten, I think with the Junior talent we have and existing roster adding blair would give us the best pack in the comp.
Bench: woods, fifita, dwyer, fulton BMM etc
Definitely have him in the side. Can play back row or prop, and play them both very well. One of Melbourne’s best players (imo only behind Slater, Cronk and Smith), and would be a big step up from a lot of the forwards we have now (only Ellis and Farah would rate above him in my mind).
best pack in the comp. Throw in a bench of Payten, Fifita, Dwyer and Fulton, we’re looking great.
will it be this year or next??.Im hoping next year as the new tv rights deal comes out and hence an increase in the cap which is what we need.I was reading the other day that we have 3 of the games top paid players in the top 5 (marshall,farah,lote) and i think blair will be right up there too,add rowdy,rhino and we must be right on the cap limit
Would this mean that we’re no longer after James Graham?
Short answer yes if we get Blair. No way could we bring both in.
If we don’t get Blair I am sure that Graham is still on our radar but will depend on what we do with Woods and Fifita. We have Gibbs and Galloway under contract and if we re-sign both Woods and Fifita we have a strong prop rotation with a couple of good prospects in the 20’s as well. Graham then would probably been seen as a luxury we can’t afford.
If we bring in Blair, I would say Flanangan, Moors and others will not be offered new contracts. We might even have to move Payten into a coaching role or allow him to go to ESL. Blair at the reported money will cause major re-shuffles of our squad but would be a great addition to our side.
A pack of
with Fulton, Fifitia, Woods, Dwyer and BMM plus some other youngsters in the wings would be very strong.
Wont get Blair AND Graham,& frankly with all the young blokes coming thru, dont need both
ld also be surprised if he cost $500k…thats Benji $$$,& he just isnt worth that coin.I dont think he’s even the best forward in Storm personally,as I rate Manu more impactful
Yep,Moors & Flanagan will go(about $200k between them),Payten still has 2012,so I dont know where the rest is coming from.
Personally Id be chasing Tagive who went to Saints to play firsts under Bennett(who is going) with Morris & Cooper(who are staying),& subsequently they signed Gasnier & resigned Nightingale .He;d be very dissappointed I wld think.
As we only have one 1st grade standard winger in the club ,he’d be my immediate priority
If the Tigers are to sign Blair then it’s pretty much all she wrote for the following players:
The Tigers have enough junior talent in the backs and forwards to replace these players and while Payten recently re-signed with club and is on board for next year, it’s safe to assume he did not get a payrise out of what will be his last deal at the club, and given he’s off contract at the end of 2012, the Tigers could potentially backload Blair’s contract and bump up his pay in 2013 with the money freed up from Payten retiring.