Eels castaway’s $800,000 Christmas gift
The complications of Corey Norman's reported move to St George Illawarra are many - but none more dramatic than the question of what Parramatta will do with the salary cap vacuum his departure creates.
Public speculation has focused on the impact Norman's arrival at the Dragons, on a three-year-deal as first reported by foxsports.com.au, will have on the futures of fullback Matt Dufty and star playmaker Gareth Widdop.
The Daily Telegraph now reports Norman's departure will arm the Eels with an $800,000 salary cap gift that will allow them to enter the open market and snatch up any talent that should be available before the start of the season on March 14.
The report reveals Parramatta is refusing to budge in its negotiations with the Dragons surrounding the release of Norman.
The former Broncos fullback has reportedly agreed to a three-year, that would see his salary slashed in his first season at the Dragons.
Norman was set to earn $940,000 with the Eels in 2019, but his deal at St George would be worth just $600,000 in 2019, before the club would be in a position to upgrade the deal for 2020 and 2021 following the departure of Widdop back to the English Super League.
The deal is expected to be completed this week - by which time the Eels will have already paid Norman two months of wages added to their 2019 salary cap, reportedly worth $160,000.
They are refusing to contribute any further money towards Norman's Dragons contract.
With a reported $200,000 in salary cap wiggle room already up their sleeve, the Eels have more than $800,000 to splurge on the open market.
Rabbitohs speedster Alex Johnston is at the top of the shopping list for several circling NRL clubs, following reports he is nervous new coach Wayne Bennett will drop him back to the wing.
Storm legend Cameron Smith and former Sharks rake James Segeyaro headline the list of stars still without a contract for the 2019 season.
The Eels' first priority, however, will be to lockdown exciting teenager Dylan Brown with an upgraded deal after the Warriors reportedly identified him as their preferred target to replace Shaun Johnson.
The Dragons may yet also be a player on the open market before the start of the season if Widdop is allowed to leave early.
He has committed to the club for 2019, but has also signalled his intent to return to England soon.
The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie said on Wednesday the Dragons could "turn the tables" on Widdop by informing him he is free to leave the club immediately after they secured a replacement in Norman.
Norman will likely be forced to return to fullback at the Dragons where he will be locked in a duel with speedster Matt Dufty for the No. 1 jumper.
Dufty was recently assured by the club that the jumper was his to lose, but Norman will pile immense pressure on him to justify his selection.
The Dragons have also been linked with interest in Johnston after releasing Kurt Mann to the Knights.
Newcastle signed Mann to a three-year NRL deal as they eye converting the 'Mr Fix It' into a No. 9.
The Knights on Monday confirmed they had snared Mann's signature until the end of the 2021 season after he was granted a release by St George Illawarra.
Coach Nathan Brown confirmed he intends to convert Mann into a dummy-half - despite him never having started there - as Slade Griffin recovers from a fourth ACL injury.
"We identified Kurt as a player of interest quite some time ago," Brown said.
"We believe Kurt has the potential to become a hooker and his ability to play a range of positions is an added bonus in today's game.
"Kurt expressed a desire to secure a regular position and he'll be given every opportunity to do that."
During his 90 NRL games for St George Illawarra and Melbourne, the 25-year-old played every position in the backline and was this year used by Paul McGregor as a bench forward.
- with AAP