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Hull FC’s pursuit of Jake Clifford hits potential stumbling block as Newcastle Knights struggle to sign replacement

Hull FC could have hit a stumbling block in their pursuit of Newcastle Knights half-back Jake Clifford.

The 24-year-old has been a long-time target for the Black and Whites as Tony Smith looks for Jake Trueman’s partner in the halves for the 2023 season.

But there may now be a bump in the road with the deal reportedly hinging on the Knights signing Luke Brooks from Wests Tigers as a replacement for Clifford.

Reports in Australia suggested playmaker Brooks would be part of a swap deal that would take Newcastle prop David Klemmer to the Tigers – opening the door for Hull to finally sign Clifford.

However, WWOS have reported that the Tigers are now backing out of the deal to let Brooks leave with the club’s hierarchy not convinced that trading a half-back for a prop is good business.

The reports suggest that the ‘swap deal’ is now off the table and that Brooks is now unlikely to exit the Tigers until 2024 – putting a potential hurdle in Hull FC’s path as they bid to sign Clifford.

Brooks, who is out of contract at the end of the 2023 season, is free to talk to other clubs next week as he hits the NRL’s open market but his exit, should he leave the Knights, wouldn’t be until the end of next year.

All is not lost in Hull FC’s attempts to sign Clifford though with the Knights still on the lookout for signings as they attempt to reshuffle their squad and sign another playmaker.

It’s reported they are also interested in signing the NRL’s top try-scorer in 2022, Rueben Garrick, for next season, with the Manly Sea Eagles star seen as a suitor for the fullback role.

This would allow current no.1 Kalyn Ponga to move into the halves, giving the Knights extra options and paving the way for the Airlie Birds to come in for Clifford.

This hinges on Manly’s willingness to allow Garrick to leave though, with the outside back still having two years remaining on his contract with the Sea Eagles.

Manly are keen to keep Garrick long-term and have already put a new four-year deal on the table, however his determination to play fullback, something the Sea Eagles can’t guarantee, could be a determining factor in his decision.

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