Cowboys facing a fight to keep Taumalolo
ALONG with Trent Robinson's arrival, Sonny Bill Williams was the best thing to happen to the Roosters in recent years.
No wonder the club's now working on its 2018 salary cap to make a play for joint-Dally M Medallist Jason Taumalolo, the man likened to SBW when he first came to prominence as a prodigious 16-year-old.
The Sharks are already on the record in declaring their interest for Taumalolo, and the Roosters - with an obvious track record of chasing big names and getting them - join the premiers and more than a few NRL rivals keen to lure him south.
It goes without saying the Cowboys want to keep the most dynamic forward in the game, but the fact Taumalolo is yet to start contract talks with them has the club on edge.
North Queensland are desperate to get the ball rolling with the 23-year-old powerhouse, hence Paul Green's repeated calls for guidance on the 2018 salary cap.
Taumalolo will sit down with his management this week or next, but any decision on his future is considered a way off.
With a starting price tag of $1 million-$1.2 million a year, Taumalolo's loyalty to the Cowboys is still strong, and has resulted in him rebuffing big offers from Cronulla and the Warriors before.
It's not the first time the Roosters have eyed him off either. When Williams left the Tricolours at the end of 2014, Taumalolo was top of their shortlist to replace the cross-code colossus before he inked his current two-year deal with the Cowboys.
The circuit breaker this time around is his pursuit of an NFL start.
The great unknown of the American game holds great appeal for Taumalolo, and he's reportedly caught the eye of three franchises who want to take him back Stateside for private trials at season's end.
If he chases and lands an NFL rookie contract, Taumalolo would go from one of the biggest salaries commanded by a rugby league forward to a pay packet worth about half as much.
As for the Roosters, they have key forward pack pillars Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho (contracted until 2020), Dylan Napa (2019) and Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner (2018) locked down long-term.
But they're still shuffling their roster with Aidan Guerra, Kane Evans, Blake Ferguson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Daniel Tupou among their biggest names currently on the open market.
Taumalolo doesn't possess the same incredible training and cultural influence of an SBW, but he's arguably just as talented. He'd be a scary addition to an already intimidating pack.
An uncertain future certainly hasn't affected his game. Taumalolo smashed out an incredible 289 running metres against Canberra last weekend - a whopping 125m more than anyone else in the game - and topped the Cowboys' tackle count.