NRL Rd 20 - Dragons v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Brandon Smith of the Storm passes during the round 20 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Melbourne Storm at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Brandon Smith has reportedly informed clubs chasing his signature that he will be signing with the Sydney Roosters for 2023.

The New Zealand international star has been the most hotly-contested signature of the off-season so far, with his current deal with the Melbourne Storm coming to an end after the 2022 season.

It has been widely reported that Smith wants to play as a starting number nine, and it would appear that the lure of doing that under Trent Robinson in a team who will be fighting for premierships will be too much to turn down for the 25-year-old.

Smith, who won the Dally M hooker of the year award at the end of season ceremony, will be reportedly knocking back a larger salary than what would have been on offer elsewhere to join the Roosters.

The Daily Telegraph are reporting that he will or already has informed clubs of his decision.

Eight clubs were chasing his signature, including his current employers the Storm and the Roosters. Smith has also toured the North Queensland Cowboys, Gold Coast Titans and Dolphins, while he revealed yesterday on the YKTR Sports podcast that the Parramatta Eels, Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers have also recently become interested in his services from 2023 onwards.

But it would appear that is all too little too late, with Smith set to sign on with the Roosters and take the number nine jersey from Sam Verrils, who is on contract at the club until the end of 2024.

The move from the Roosters comes as they try to balance their own salary cap, including contract upgrades and extensions for stars Angus Crichton and Joseph Manu.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 23: Brandon Smith of the Storm warms up before the start of the round 19 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Melbourne Storm at QCB Stadium, on July 23, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Smith spoke of his admiration for the Roosters on the same podcast yesterday, speaking highly of the club and seemingly all but confirming the move.

“It was actually mind blowing,” Smith told YKTR Sports.

“I can’t explain it … like I went and golfed with Jared, Aubo and Friendy, and Nick Politis was ringing them. He is over in LA on a business trip at the moment and he is ringing them up just to see how they are.

“And they spoke with so much passion about the club … I think the best thing about the Roosters, bro, they are about your life, not your footy.

“Like, they want you to be set for life. They don’t want you to walk away with nothing from rugby league. They just pushed that. They can tell you how they are going to help you with life … it was just mind blowing.”

It's unclear at this stage how many seasons the deal would be for, or what value the Roosters can afford under their salary cap, however, the retirements of Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Brett Morris and Josh Morris over the last 12 months are sure to have freed up some funds.

It's a bitter blow too for the Dolphins, who will continue searching for 29 players to join Felise Kaufusi, who was the club's inaugural signing last week.

Follow Zero Tackle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more of the latest rugby league news.