Star North Queensland forward Jason Taumalolo could very well hold the key to luring Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake to the Cowboys.
Although the Cowboys don’t have much room in the salary cap, the influence of Taumalolo could be enough for the club to open up and make a push for Fonua-Blake, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Taumalolo and Fonua-Blake have become close friends because of their relationship where they represent Tonga.
The duo had a major influence in Tonga defeating Australia 16-12 last November and the potential to play in the NRL together could be big.
Fonua-Blake, 24, is set to leave Manly with two years still remaining on his contract. Although many are disappointed, some within the Sea Eagles believe it’s the right decision, especially with his acquaintances off-field worrying some within the club.
Given the Cowboys’ current situation, they would be unable to pay Fonua-Blake’s $700,000 to $800,000 a season over the next two years, which could pave the way for the Cowboys to release players in order to afford the funds.
Josh Maguire, who is one of the higher paid players on the Cowboys and linked to St George Illawarra, could be a name the Cowboys opt to move on from.
Fonua-Blake has asked for a release from the Sea Eagles due to wanting to move his family out of Sydney.
North Queensland, New Zealand Warriors, Brisbane and Gold Coast Titans are teams that have been linked and allowed to negotiate with Fonua-Blake during this time.
New Zealand is a team that Fonua-Blake could be persuaded by, given he has friends at the club and the mutual interest is there.
Before North Queensland and Manly’s game in June last year, Taumalolo and Fonua-Blake exchanged in some friendly conversation over text which shows their close relationship.
“Addin is a big boy and definitely not one that will back down against us. I’m sure he is looking forward to playing me and get one over me before we head into camp (with Tonga) together,” Taumalolo said.
“For me and Addin, I think we will be catching up on a few other things on the field too. I will be into him about how he is playing.”
With Joel Thompson heading to England and Fonua-Blake set to depart, the Sea Eagles will have significant cap space to make a play at potential big name targets.
Brisbane Broncos forward Tevita Pangai is a name that Manly could very well be into and could explore his options in Sydney.
Pangai has been stood down without pay by the Broncos for the remainder of the 2020 season due to COVID breaches and was expected to be let go by the club, but it appears now the Broncos will honour his contract, given good behaviour.
Although there has been no official word that Manly have made an offer for the star, he is seen as an ideal solution to replace the departing Fonua-Blake.