North Queensland Cowboys coach Todd Payten has confirmed that the club have offered a contract extension to forward Kulikefu Finefeuiaki.

One of the brightest forward prospects in the game, Finefeuiaki, has been in the headlines since the beginning of December because he has been linked with the St George Illawarra Dragons and The Dolphins.

As The Dolphins are reportedly set to launch a poaching bid, the Cowboys have confirmed that they "have given him our best offer" in an attempt to keep him at the club.

Off-contract at the end of 2024, he is able to negotiate with rival clubs and recently played his 14th first-grade appearance in the NRL on Saturday against the Newcastle Knights.

If he decides to remain in Townsville, Finefeuiaki will likely still play second-fiddle to Jeremiah Nanai and Heilum Luke, who have been elected as their primary back-rowers.

“We've got a plan to keep him, absolutely,” Cowboys coach Todd Payten said via The Courier Mail.

“We have given him our best offer.

“He is still only 20, he doesn't turn 21 until the end of the season (in December).

“Kulikefu is still learning his trade and understanding what it's like to be professional.

“He has an abundance of ability so we're excited and hopeful that we can keep him.”

Earlier this week, The Courier Mail reported that if the Cowboys lose Finefeuiaki to The Dolphins, they are set to chase Jack Howarth from the Melbourne Storm.

Another former junior Queenslander, Howarth, has fallen down the pecking order at the Storm after sustaining numerous injuries.

Born in Mackay, he spent his school days in Brisbane and is contracted with Craig Bellamy's side until at least the end of the 2027 season but could ask for a potential release.