The Newcastle Knights see Storm utility Slade Griffin as a direct replacement for recently retired Rory Kostjasyn, but the man himself may not be ready to leave Melbourne.
Fox Sports reported on Monday that the 26-year-old hooker and lock had signed with Newcastle for the next two years and had told his Storm teammates last week that he would be leaving for the Knights.
But Griffin’s manager, Andrew Purcell, told the Newcastle Herald on Mondaythat Melbourne had made a strong counter-offer.
Purcell said his client was keen to repay the Storm’s loyalty after they stuck by him through three serious knee injuries in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Griffin has played 12 NRL games this season, including 15 minutes off the bench in Melbourne’s 18-16 win over Parramatta in the first week of the finals last weekend.
The New Zealander started four of those matches at hooker during the State of Origin period, including in a 40-12 home win over the Knights.
Knights coach Nathan Brown met with Griffin in Newcastle last month, but chief executive Matt Gidley said the two parties were still in negotiations.
“Slade’s obviously a player we’re interested in,” Gidley said. “We see him as nearly a direct replacement for Rory Kostjasyn. We need to work it through.
“They’re very similar types of players. They can play nine or 13. They’re similar types of characters as well.
“We’re not going to get an exact replacement for Rory, but our footy department has identified Slade as a very similar type of player to Rory.”
Gidley said the club was also continuing discussions with New Zealand Warriors and Queensland Origin prop Jacob Lillyman, who will be 34 by the time next season kicks off.
“We’re looking to add further depth to our middle. Jacob’s one of those, and his experience as well,” Gidley said.
“We’re having conversations with a whole range of players at the moment.”