Reed Mahoney’s decision to join Phil Gould and the Bulldogs could see the value of free agent hookers in the NRL soar further.
Fox League’s James Hooper on Thursday reported the 23-year-old will sign a lucrative deal worth around $600,000 a season, trumping the Eels’ offer of a three-year $1.5 million deal.
It left Eels fans and former club greats scratching their heads due to the importance of quality number nines in today’s fast-paced, free flowing game.
The Australian’s Brent Read said the Eels needed to find a quality replacement or kiss any hope of a premiership goodbye.
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“You need a number nine now, it is almost like a half, a fullback, a nine they are the most important roles in a football team, if you don’t have a nine forget about winning a comp,” Read told Triple M.
Mahoney’s move could trigger a feeding frenzy, with multiple hookers on the market ready to be snapped up.
Melbourne star Brandon Smith has been shopping himself to clubs up and down the east-coast while Panthers grand final hero, Apisai Koroisau is yet to ink a new deal to stay at the foot of the mountains.
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“This could have ramifications for Api Koroisau at Penrith, there has been talk that he may be on the move, he is on the market for 2023 but maybe his value now goes through the roof,” Read said.
“Do Parramatta have a look at Brandon Smith, he is in Sydney right now – he played golf with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Mitch Aubusson and Jake Friend yesterday on the North Shore of Sydney.
“Do they enter the already congested race? They are going to have to sit back, take stock and go because they have money to spend, they missed out on these guys, so they have plenty of money up their sleeve.”
With Mahoney’s contract setting the tone for contracts to come, Koroisau may be looking for a larger figure after playing an integral role in the Panthers premiership.
Smith is reportedly fielding offers upwards of $800,000 a season, largely due to his versatility and threat on the attacking end.
Other hookers on the market include the Raiders duo of Tom Starling and Josh Hodgson as well as Wade Egan from the Warriors and Blayke Brailey from the Sharks.
While Brailey is only 23 and a player with an abundance of potential, he looks likely to recommit to the Sharks and play a role in the Cronulla spine for years to come.
The Raiders will also likely look to re-sign Tom Starling as a matter of priority with 32-year-old Josh Hodgson coming to the end of an illustrious career since he made the move from England in 2015.
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Hodgson has been rumoured to have one foot out the door at the Raiders, ready to join the Tigers but at the last minute the deal was reportedly halted.
This leaves Wade Egan as the most viable option for clubs wanting to sign a hooker. The Panthers’ product left Penrith in search of regular first team football and had a solid season for the Warriors.
Injuries hampered his playing time, but he isn’t the top quality number nine that premiership contenders are looking for.
The Eels premiership window is slowly closing and they will have to sign a top-quality number nine if they want to come close to taking out the top gong this season.
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