The tug of war between Newcastle and St George Illawarra over the future of Wes Naiq ama has ntensified with the Dragons upping the ante in a bid to secure his signature.
Miffed at losing coach Wayne Bennett, fullback Darius Boyd and most likely rising star Alex McKinnon to the Knights, the Dragons are looking to make a retaliatory strike with Naiqama their chief target
The Fijian captain has been in outstanding form and with Bennett rubber-stamping a new deal, it was thought he would remain in Newcastle.
But St George Illawarra have other ideas. They have virtually guaranteed Naiqama a first grade position at fullback as a straight fullback replacement for Boyd.
And yesterday they added a further carrot, an extra year on top of the two-year deal already on the table.
It’s understood Cronulla Sharks and the Sydney Roosters also tabled two-year deals but it has come down to a shootout between the Knights and Naiqama’s former club.
Mather believes Naiqama’s first preference is to stay at the Knights. “On balance, I’d say that is probably true,” he said.
“He is settled up in Newcastle and is happy there which is reflected in the footy he has been playing.
“But it’s not an easy decision for Wes. He has close friends at the Dragons and he is close to (incoming coach) Steve Price.
“It’s a tricky one for him.”
It’s understood the Knights revised their offer as late as Wednesday to all but match the money on the table from the Dragons in a bid to get the deal done.
But showing their desperation to entice him back to Kogarah, the Dragons immediately added a third year to the equation.
“I’ve left it with the Knights to come back to us,” Mather said.
Knights officials were last night attempting to contact Bennett to see if they will match the Dragons latest offer.