English Cowboy: Shock frontrunner for Widdop return
Gareth Widdop has been linked with an NRL return to the Cowboys as the Rabbitohs board meet to make a final decision on boom youngster Joseph Suaalii.
The Cowboys have been offered the 31-year-old who is desperate to return to Australia for family reasons. Widdop's management and his club Warrington have reached out to a host of NRL teams in recent weeks gauging interest in the former St George Illawarra captain.
While the Dragons have first rights on Widdop's return as part of his release from the club, he will not be back at St George Illawarra. The Dragons will not stand in his way should he make an NRL return although there is not a large appetite for Widdop's services given his price tag.
The Cowboys are considering making a play for Widdop which would enable Jake Clifford to sign with the Knights immediately after his two-year deal from 2022 was formally announced on Tuesday. North Queensland are reluctant to release Clifford without a substantial back-up. Widdop could replicate the discussions with Cowboys had with Benji Marshall who priced himself out of joining the joining the club during negotiations. Widdop will need to take a near 50 per cent pay-cut to return to the NRL with two years left on his Warrington contract.
He denied he wanted to come home when The Daily Telegraph first broke the news in August. The Dragons expressed an interest in swapping Widdop for Corey Norman but neither Norman nor Warrington were keen on the arrangement.
Widdop's potential return comes as the Rabbitohs board meets this week where it is expected Suaalii will be free to ink a long-term deal with the Roosters and be granted a release from his South Sydney deal.
The Rabbitohs, who are resigned to Suaalii joining their arch rivals, inquired about the potential of the Roosters releasing State of Origin winger Daniel Tupou but that was instantly rejected by the Roosters. Instead the Rabbitohs want financial compensation for releasing the youngster. The development fee is set at $25,000 but the Rabbitohs want more than double that amount.
The Tigers are continuing negotiations with Brisbane forward Joe Ofahengaue which will enable Josh Aloiai out of his deal to join Manly but talks with Curtis Sironen making a return to the club have stalled.
Meanwhile, the Roosters have released young winger Christian Tuipulotu. It is understood the 19-year-old, who made his NRL debut this year, is close to inking a deal with the Sea Eagles.
Originally published as English Cowboy: Shock frontrunner for Widdop return