Cashed-up Cronulla Sharks have Melbourne Storm superstar Cooper Cronk in their sights and are considering making a major play for him in 12 months.
Having narrowly missed out on Queensland State of Origin centre Willie Tonga, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said his club had space in its salary cap for elite NRL talent.
But Cronulla may hold back until next year because of the limited number of top-quality players available on the open market.
The Sharks are in talks with another three players from rival clubs for next season.
But that will not have any bearing on their ability to recruit some of the best players coming off contract at the end of next season.
“We’re really looking at taking the next step and buying some real elite stuff,” Flanagan said. “We’ve got a fair bit of money and we won’t waste it. Next year there are a lot of players coming off contract. I know Cooper Cronk is one, so we’ll be in a good position to be in the market.”
The Sharks have already signed eight players from rival NRL clubs for next year, including Andrew Fifita, Bryce Gibbs, Jon Green, Mark Taufua, Isaac De Gois and Jeff Robson. All their top talent in the NYC has also been all but signed up.
However, the loss of props Kade Snowden and Luke Douglas leaves the club with room to move.
The Sharks may still chase a player in the same mould as Tonga, rather than a playmaker like Cronk – if the young Cronulla halves, Albert Kelly, Chad Townsend and Wade Graham, develop into a more lethal combination.
“Cronk is a quality player and I’m sure any club would love to have him,,” Flanagan said. “But I’m hoping the halves we’ve got can develop into players similar to him.