It was believed that Hull FC’s bid to sign half-back Jake Clifford was dependant on his current club, Newcastle Knights, capturing Luke Brooks from NRL rivals Wests Tigers – that however appears to have changed.
Developments in Australia suggest that Brooks is now unlikely to move on next season, with the Tigers backtracking on a swap deal with the Knights.
Newcastle prop David Klemmer is a target for new Wests coach Tim Sheens, with the former Hull KR boss initially proposing a swap deal that would have seen Brooks sign for the Knights, thus opening the door for Hull FC to land Clifford with his replacement playmaker in place.
However, the hierarchy at the Tigers have stepped in with WWOS reporting that they do not support the idea of swapping a lucrative half-back in Brooks for a prop in Klemmer.
The results of that are Brooks staying at Wests Tigers for next season, leaving the Knights without a new half-back and unwilling to let Clifford leave for the time being.
However, all may not be lost for Hull FC with Newcastle now lining up the NRL’s top try-scorer from last season in the shape of Manly Sea Eagles outside back Rueben Garrick.
Garrick, who originally played wing, excelled at fullback for Manly last season following a season-ending shoulder injury to Tom Trbojevic.
Following his stint in the no.1 role, Garrick is keen to remain there but that is not something the Sea Eagles are prepared to offer given Trbojevic is one of the NRL’s biggest stars.
This has alerted Newcastle who are looking for a no.1 with their very own superstar fullback, Kalyn Ponga, now lined up to play in the halves next season – a switch that would give the Knights options and allow Hull to land Clifford.
Like the Brooks deal though, a move for Garrick looks tough. The 25-year-old still has two years remaining on his contract with the Sea Eagles meaning Newcastle would have to push for an immediate release.
This is something Manly have got wind of and they have acted swiftly by offering Garrick a bumper new deal to fend off the Knights interest in their star.
Manly Sea Eagles CEO Tony Mestrov has revealed that a positional change is part of the new offer to Garrick, but that position is not fullback.
“We’ve offered him a strong four-year deal which would match any offer the Knights give him,” Mestrov told The Daily Telegraph.
“He wants to play fullback and obviously with Tom at Manly he can’t do that.
“However our offer is with the intention of playing Garrick at centre. He will play in the centres. He played all his junior representative football at centre. He is also an amazing goal-kicker which adds to the need to keep him.”
The advantage the Knights have is the ability to offer Garrick big money at fullback, the disadvantage though is they would need a series of events, mainly the player requesting a release from his current contract, to make the deal happen.
It is not completely off the table though and it appears Newcastle are keen to land an additional playmaker no matter what for 2023 – once that happens then Hull can finally tie up a deal for their long-time target Clifford.