The Penrith Panthers have emerged as the most likely NRL alternative for Daniel Mortimer, who was last week granted permission from Parramatta to negotiate with rival clubs.
As a result of Petero Civoniceva’s decision to forego his final season at the foot of the mountains in favour of a Brisbane swansong, it’s understood the Panthers now have an extra $400,000 to spend under next year’s cap.
Club insiders have told The Daily Telegraph that Mortimer is on their recruitment radar, along with Melbourne Storm centre Maurice Blair.
Panthers officials are concerned about their depth in halves, with current No.7 Luke Walsh their only recognised playmaker.
Mortimer’s manager, Steve Gillis, said last night he’d received no contact from Penrith after he notified all NRL clubs and UK Super League outfits of his client’s availability last week.
“There’s been a few nibbles but nothing from Penrith as yet,” Gillis said.
Mortimer is contracted to Parramatta for another two seasons. But it is understood that the Eels were told to release players in order to accommodate Cowboys centre Willie Tonga under their 2012 salary cap.
The Maroons star was granted an official release from North Queensland yesterday but cannot finalise a deal with Parramatta unless it meets the approval of cap auditor Ian Schubert.
A former Panther himself, Blair returned to Centrebet Stadium last week and was spotted in discussions with Penrith officials.
Blair joined Melbourne on a two-year deal at the end of 2010 but enjoys an option in his favour for next season.
While Melbourne were furious to learn of Penrith’s attempt to sneak under their guard, the Sydney club remains confident it can re-claim the vastly improved Queenslander with a handsome offer.