Newcastle Knights officials have been working behind the scenes to broker a player trade with Leeds Rhinos that would allow them to re-sign former skipper Danny Buderus without paying a transfer fee.
Buderus, the veteran hooker who played in 220 first-grade games for Newcastle, wants to return for an NRL swansong under incoming coach Wayne Bennett but is contracted to Leeds for one more year.
There has been speculation Leeds were demanding a transfer fee of up to $150,000 to release the 33-year-old, but Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said yesterday that the Rhinos’ priority was to secure a replacement player of similar stature to Buderus.
Gidley said that player might not come from within the Knights and did not necessarily have to be a hooker.
‘‘Their preference is to get a player to take Danny’s spot, so at the moment we’re exhausting all avenues,’’ Gidley said.
Buderus has a promising understudy at Leeds, 21-year-old Paul McShane, who has played in 29 Super League games and is contracted to the Rhinos until 2013.
McShane is regarded as Buderus’s heir apparent at Leeds and Gidley said the Rhinos had indicated it was not essential to replace the former NSW and Kangaroos skipper with another dummy-half.
‘‘I spoke to Bedsy last night, and he said a hooker would be great, but they’re just after an experienced player who has got some genuine NRL experience,’’ Gidley said.
Newcastle have asked two contracted players, Antonio Kaufusi and Constantine Mika, to find new clubs next season, but Gidley said it was unlikely any Knights would move to Headingley.
Buderus has made it obvious he wants to return to Newcastle but does not want to leave Leeds on bad terms.
He has enjoyed three happy years with the club and would prefer to leave on a good note.
Transfer fees are virtually non-existent between NRL clubs but are standard practice in England.
Canterbury paid an estimated $100,000 a year ago so Leeds would release Kiwi forward Greg Eastwood.
But it is obvious the Knights would prefer not to do likewise if they can avoid it.