Wigan Warriors swoop for NRL prop
The Super League giants are hoping to secure an overseas signing for next season to add some strength, and competition, to their front-row.
His identity is being kept under wraps but reports elsewhere it is Canterbury prop Renouf Atoni are thought to be off the mark.
Although no deals have been completed or announced, planning for next season has been ramped up over recent weeks.
Wigan are already to close to capturing prolific London and ex-Manly winger Abbas Miski for 2022, as a direct replacement for retiring Dom Manfredi.
A move for Leigh’s ex-Warriors centre Iain Thornley is understood to be in the pipeline, increasing their options once Oliver Gildart (Wests) departs.
The Warriors will also have goal-kicking centre Chris Hankinson in the mix for next season.
Some have questioned why he has not been brought back from his loan at London, given Wigan have had at least one forward playing at centre for most of this season.
But it is understood there is no recall option on Hankinson as he is at the Broncos for the season, rather than on a short spell.
While they are busy making plans for next season, it seems unlikely the club will many any more recruits for the rest of this year.
Prop George Burgess was not replaced after his departure before the campaign began, meaning there is room under the salary cap ceiling.
The club took a massive financial hit by the pandemic and while crowd restrictions will be lifted this month, clubs are not out of the woods yet, with government loans needing to be repaid.
Despite that, it’s understood Wigan are still spending - within the rules - more than the finite £2.1million limit allowed on the cap, as they have two marquee players – currently being occupied by John Bateman and one other senior player – as well as making use of other dispensations.
The salary of Bevan French – recovering in Australia from hamstring surgery – is still counted on the cap. The Aussie will be returning to the club next season after taking up his option for 2022, a huge boost for the club.
French is one of a clutch of frontline players sidelined by injury and though he is out for the year, the likes of Zak Hardaker, John Bateman, Dom Manfredi, Morgan Smithies, Clubb and Jai Field are set to return in the next few weeks - which is why club bosses remain confident they can finish the season strongly.
Coach Adrian Lam also has Liam Marshall and Oliver Gildart finding their feet again after long lay-offs.
Field was hailed as one of the most exciting recruits to join Super League this year but suffered a serious hamstring injury on his Wigan debut.
He can play full-back, but his preferred position is at halfback. And Wigan will be keen to see how he fares in that position given Jackson Hastings is heading back to the NRL with Wests next year and the possibility that Thomas Leuluai may retire.
With Joe Bullock leaving for Warrington, they may also recruit a prop in addition to the NRL player they are close to securing - though reports elsewhere linking them with Leigh's Nathan Mason are understood to be incorrect.