SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Kurt Capewell of the Sharks runs in for a try during the round 25 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Cronulla Sharks at ANZ Stadium on September 2, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The Cronulla Sharks are expected to lose back-rower Kurt Capewell as rival clubs circle the upcoming free agent.

The 26-year-old has been in inspired form this season, leading to a selection in Queensland’s extended State of Origin squad earlier in the year and interest from opposition clubs.

Cronulla’s loss of $350,000 in salary cap for next season due to their ongoing sanctions has meant the club will not have the financial power to match rival offers for Capewell in free agency.

The Knights are interested in securing Capewell’s services, and the Titans and Warriors are also considering making a move for the back-rower, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Sharks half-back Chad Townsend admits it will be difficult to keep a player of Capewell’s quality in the Sutherland Shire.

“This year he has excelled and it’s actually amazed me that he’s still unsigned for next year,” Townsend said.

“I think he will be an asset to any team he goes to and I would love him to stay here but I’m not sure what his go is.

“He’s told us he would love to stay but it’s more about what the best decision is for him and his development.

“We have some pretty handy back-rowers here at the Sharks and Capes is definitely one of those.

“But his role here at the moment is just to come off the bench and play that utility role.

“If he went to another team he could potentially start and hopefully his career will go up and up. You can’t begrudge someone who wants to do that.”

Fellow Shark Wade Graham, who has witnessed Capewell’s impressive performances from the bench due to injury, believes it will be difficult to hold onto him given the club’s current situation.

“Obviously it’s pretty well publicised how tight our cap is with the sanctions and where we’re sitting at the moment as a club but he’s a great player, a quality player,” Graham said.

“He’s versatile, he can play so many different positions and he plays those positions well.

“He’s a great clubman and he’s been here for three years now. He has really fit in.

“It would be tough to lose him but it’s hard at the moment with the position that we’re in as a club.”

Cronulla’s financial situation has forced the club to consider moving on experienced campaigners such as prop Matt Prior.

Prior’s current situation is being monitored by Parramatta, but he is not entertaining the thought of a move away at this stage.

“I haven’t really thought about it at all, to be honest. And I’m not really going to think about it,” Prior said.

“Whatever happens, happens and I will just deal with it as it comes.

“There isn’t much point in putting much thought into something where I don’t really know what is going to happen. We’ll just go from there.

“Obviously I would love to stay as long as I can. I love the Sharks and I love the area.

“I’ve had some great times here and I’ve probably played my best footy here, so I want to stay. But whatever happens, happens. I’ll just deal with it when it comes.”

Cronulla are currently eighth on the ladder with just three games of the home-and-away season remaining.

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