Cowboys set to chase disgruntled Knights star
Struggling North Queensland are targeting tackle-busting former Knights star Jesse Ramien in a $1 million bid to bring some attacking spark to the Cowboys' ailing backline.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the Cowboys have Ramien on their hit-list alongside Valentine Holmes and are keen to lure the NSW Origin hopeful to Townsville in the wake of his bitter fallout with Newcastle coach Nathan Brown.
Despite being one of the NRL's most destructive players - Ramien is in the top-three tackle busters with James Tedesco and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - the 22-year-old has been shown the door by the Knights.
Ramien would have faced North Queensland in Saturday's Knights-Cowboys clash in Newcastle, but instead finds himself on the sidelines after being sensationally shown the door by Brown.
The former Junior Kangaroos sensation clashed with Brown over Newcastle's style of play and was told last week he could find a new home for 2020.
Several clubs are lining up to secure the services of Ramien, including the Bulldogs, Sharks, Eels and Roosters, but the Cowboys have the salary-cap space to be a serious contender for one of the code's most promising centres.
Ramien has a whopping 85 tackle busts from 17 games this season, placing the 98kg hulk alongside Tedesco (113) and Tuivasa-Sheck (105) as the top-three hardest players to tackle in the NRL.
NSW coach Brad Fittler seriously considered handing Ramien his Origin debut for Game One this season before opting for the experience of Josh Morris.
North Queensland's backline has been decimated by injury this season and coach Paul Green is keen to inject a strike weapon to his threequarters.
It is understood Ramien is seeking a three or four-year deal worth in excess of $300,000 annually. He will finalise his future this week, with his management confirming North Queensland are in the hunt for the powerhouse centre.
"Jesse is considering all of his options, with the Cowboys being one of them," PSM's Chris Orr said.
"It will come down to which team offers him the best football program as this decision is all about what's best for his football career.
"Jesse was in Origin contention this year and despite leaving the Knights, he is still among the leading tackle-breakers in the competition.
"The club needs to play a style of football which suits and complements Jesse's style of football."
Cowboys centre Tom Opacic has proved a handy recruit from the Broncos, scoring seven tries from 15 games this season, but he lacks the power and ferocious hard-running of Ramien.
Cowboys football operations chief Peter Parr said the club's priority is to retain their rising stars but revealed North Queensland has money to spend as they eye off Ramien and NFL aspirant Valentine Holmes.
"The first thing we are trying to do is retain our young talent," Parr said.
"We have great young kids coming through, including young Peter Hola (who made his NRL debut last week against the Broncos).
"That's our plan. But we are always happy to look at the market and we think there are a couple of guys available who could potentially help us."