A shock contender has emerged as a new landing spot for Marty Taupau in 2023, dislodging Parramatta as favourites for the front-rowers signature.
Sources close to the club have informed Zero Tackle that the South Sydney Rabbitohs are in talks to bring the Manly prop to Redfern next season, brushing aside talk that the former Kiwi international would join the Eels.
Head coach Jason Demetriou is reportedly focused on bolstering his middle third, with Taupau considered an ideal replacement for Mark Nicholls, who secured a release from the final year of his deal earlier this year to sign with the Dolphins.
The Rabbitohs are set to offer Taupau a two-year deal, tying him to the club until the end of the 2024 season.
The Eels were close to securing the front-rower for the remainder of 2022 as a pre-finals boost, however Manly blocked the move at the 11th hour, instead opting to use Taupau in their race to make the top eight this season.
The former Tiger and Bulldog will certainly create competition for spots in the Rabbitohs 17 if he is to put pen to paper, joining Thomas Burgess, Tevita Tatola, Davvy Moale, Daniel Suluka-Fifita and Liam Knight at the club, not to mention Cameron Murray in the middle of the field.
Turning 33 just before the 2023 season kicks, it's likely that this could be Taupau's final deal in the NRL before retirement.
Parramatta were desperate to secure another middle forward, however talk of Dave Klemmer's potential sacking in Newcastle could reignite talks between the Eels and the former Blue for a 2023 link-up.
Like most off-contract stars, the Dolphins have shown some interest towards Taupau, however it is believed the Sea Eagle would prefer to land somewhere in Sydney if he was to leave Manly.
The veteran prop is set to make a final decision and put pen to paper in the coming weeks as clubs begin to finalise their rosters for 2023.