The race for Cameron Munster's services from the start of 2023 has taken an unexpected turn, with the Canterbury Bulldogs adding their name to the list of clubs chasing the star.
While Munster is not technically allowed to sign or negotiate with other clubs until November 1 this year - he is off-contract at the end of the 2023 season - the Dolphins have been heavily linked to signing the Queensland State of Origin star.
Reports have now emerged that the Dolphins are prepared to potentially pay seven figures to bring Munster to the club as a marquee option from the start of the 2024 season.
Wayne Bennett is fast running out of options for the 2023 season, with Kalyn Ponga reportedly set to ink a new long-term deal with the Newcastle Knights in the coming days.
While the Storm are unwilling to release Munster before the end of his current deal, it's widely thought the chances of him re-signing in Melbourne are slim.
That could be about to go even lower though, with The Daily Telegraph reporting that the Bulldogs view Munster as an option to fix one of the club's only remaining options - either at fullback or in the halves.
Hooker is another problem area this year, however, the arrival of Reed Mahoney from the Parramatta Eels to Belmore next year will improve that option.
It's unclear just how much salary cap the Bulldogs will have available come the start of the 2024 season given the arrivals of both Mahoney and Kikau next year, however, Kyle Flanagan, Josh Jackson and Luke Thompson are three players currently on sizeable contracts which expire at the end of the 2023 season, which could open up some wiggle room to bring Munster on board for 2024.
It's understood Munster's manager Braith Anasta will have more talks with the Dolphins in the coming days, however, with seven months until he can officially sign a deal at any club not in Melbourne, there is plenty of time for the Bulldogs to revise their offer.
The other sticking point could be the willingness of Munster to move to Sydney, with the star reportedly either wanting to remain in Melbourne or return home to Queensland to close out his career.
Staying in Melbourne would require a significant pay cut however after all of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jahrome Hughes and Harry Grant signed long-term, big-money extensions.