Josh Mansour, James Tedesco and their manager Sam Ayoub have met with the Canberra Raiders as the club prepares to launch a big overhaul of its roster for next year.
However, Ayoub says he hasn’t discussed financial terms, or fielded an offer from the Raiders or any other club, for the services of his in-demand backs.
It is understood the Raiders would be willing to offer off-contract Panthers winger Mansour a lucrative deal to join them next season. The in-form 23-year-old was mentioned as a possible NSW Origin bolter this year and is keen to stay at Penrith, but it is understood they are battling to find the money that would likely be available at rival clubs.
Despite this, he remains a strong chance to remain loyal to the Panthers, but there’s no shortage of rivals ready to swoop, including Canberra.
“We’ve met with them [Canberra] and had a bit of a look at the joint, but we haven’t spoken a cent to the Raiders or anybody,” Ayoub said.
“With Josh or any other player, we need to talk to their own clubs and talk to others to see what’s out there, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Canberra is desperate to bolster its squad after registering just three wins from its first 10 matches.
Outside backs are a high priority following the sackings of Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson, and the decision from fullback Anthony Milford, another Ayoub client, to honour his deal with Brisbane. The situation was compounded when rookie centre Matt Allwood announced this week he had signed a three-year deal with New Zealand Warriors.
The Raiders have expressed strong interest in Tedesco. The Tigers’ negotiations with the fullback have dragged on for weeks and he has also been linked to Canterbury. .
North Queensland Cowboys youngster Curtis Rona, who will play in Canberra against the Raiders on Sunday, is also high on their wish list.
Melbourne forward Kevin Proctor is set to make a decision on his future soon, and Canberra, St George Illawarra and the Roosters head the race for his services.
Should Canberra miss out on Tedesco, the off-contract Reece Robinson, also managed by Ayoub, could be another fullback option. Regular winger Robinson was impressive in the No.1 jersey when Dugan was given his marching orders just one game into last season.
He admitted to media earlier this year he ”sometimes feels a bit lost” on the wing, despite already scoring eight tries in a struggling side this year.
“I’ve spoken to the Raiders about Reece and I know they’re certainly not ruling him out of the equation there, [but] I’m pushing Reece’s barrow elsewhere as well,” Ayoub said. “The Raiders are talking about him in the same breath as they’re talking to other players outside their environment.”
While they often didn’t see eye-to-eye through the Milford saga, Ayoub said critics should defer judgment on Ricky Stuart until he had had a chance to build his roster.
“At Parramatta he knew the roster was right and he targeted players, the ones he got there are performing,” he said. “I know ‘Sticky’ will do the same at Canberra, he’ll target players and all of the sudden the Raiders will turn it around.
“I’ve had my differences with Sticky over players as we did with Milford, but I can see what he’s doing. He shouldn’t be judged on some of the performances now because he inherited a roster.”
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