Rabbitohs’ pre-season mission to lure star South
Queensland and Broncos star David Fifita is considering a shock switch to South Sydney from the start of next season.
The Daily Telegraph understands the Rabbitohs' succession plan, in which Wayne Bennett will remain head coach until the end of 2021 before assistant Jason Demetriou assumes the top role for the following four years, has enormous appeal for Fifita, who played under both coaches at Brisbane.
The key issue is whether Souths would have the salary cap room to sign Fifita after securing Gold Coast prop Jai Arrow long-term and extending current front-rower Liam Knight in the past two months.
Most felt Fifita would remain at Brisbane when his contract expires after this season but it now appears he is seriously viewing other options.
Fifita, 19, has told his inner circle that Souths would be a viable option. His mother, Gwen, a huge influence on Fifita, is also a massive fan of Bennett and Demetriou.
Fifita also enjoyed his time in the Indigenous All Stars camp last week alongside Souths stars Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts, Alex Johnston and Cody Walker.
It's understood retired South Sydney captain Sam Burgess met with Fifita last December.
Souths offered Fifita a five-year, $5 million deal late last year but interest from the giant forward was lukewarm with the Rabbitohs moving on to Arrow and Mitchell.
A final decision would rest with Fifita, not Souths.
The Rabbitohs would consider reshaping their salary cap should Fifita decide he wants to play at Redfern.
Souths' decision to nail down their coaching structure long-term would give Fifita - and other potential recruits - coaching security for the next six years. And there are factors at play inside Redfern.
The Rabbitohs have money from Adam Doueihi's departure but a chunk was used for the retention of Knight and for a new deal for Mitchell.
Some close to the club suggest Corey Allan is homesick and may look to return to Queensland.
Off contract after this season, Johnston's future at Souths remains clouded. He wants to play fullback but is aware that won't happen now Mitchell has arrived.
The Rabbitohs have Arrow, Knight and Tom Burgess signed to long-term deals. The club also needs to save some serious money to retain champion back-rower Cam Murray long-term.
Quelling talk he was certain to remain at Brisbane, Fifita told The Sunday Telegraph: "We'll see what happens. It's a business, you know how it works."
However, Fifita's mother Gwen warned: "The stress of Sydney would be overwhelming for Dave."
Gold Coast are ready to pounce with a hefty bid while the New Zealand Warriors expressed strong interest last year.
Bennett and Souths general manager of football Shane Richardson want to leave the club in strong shape when departing after next season. Signing Fifita would give Souths a marquee forward who could steer the club for the next decade.
Most felt Fifita would remain at Brisbane after the club helped arrange his release from a Bali jail cell last November following an alleged assault of a nightclub bouncer.
Fifita is one of the finest forwards in rugby league despite still being a teenager.
League Immortal Andrew Johns said late last year: "To win a comp you need a strike back-rower and he's your strike back-rower."