Melbourne Storm will make a concerted effort to keep Gareth Widdop at the club after the emerging talent proved in the first five rounds he could become a long-term five-eighth, according to football operations manager Frank Ponissi.
Ponissi said yesterday the club was expecting a decision from fellow young gun Matt Duffie, who is being wooed by the Parramatta Eels, ”just before or just after” the Anzac Day clash with the New Zealand Warriors.
Ponissi, who will travel to Sydney next week to meet Widdop’s manager Paul Sutton, said the club had opened talks a few weeks ago, but discussions would be ”escalated” following the 22-year-old’s impressive start to the season.
Ponissi said it was unlikely the club would have been able to keep Widdop had he remained a back-up full-back to Billy Slater, with Widdop, who has already played for England, eager to make his mark as a regular first-grader.
However, Ponissi said the club and Widdop were confident he would become a quality five-eighth.
Ponissi said the Storm had given emerging star Duffie, who scored a classy try against the Eels last weekend, its final offer.
”We’re confident that we’ve come up with an offer [that], while it’s not the equal of other offers, is an offer good enough to stay here for, for the next few years,” Ponissi said.
He said the club had made an informal approach to half-back Cooper Cronk about extending his contract, which ends at the end of next season, but had agreed to hold off negotiations until the end of this year.