AUSTRALIAN STAR Robbie Farah “ticks the boxes” in Leeds Rhinos’ search for a hooker, but the Wests Tigers man may be out of their price range.
Rhinos are looking to bring in a replacement for Paul Aiton, who will leave the club at the end of this season to join First Utility Super League rivals Catalans Dragons.
Farah, the Wests and New South Wales captain, was told this week he can look for another club, despite having two years left on his contract at the NRL outfit, where he was a Grand Final winner a decade ago.
That news has alerted Rhinos and chief executive Gary Hetherington admitted Farah would be a huge attraction, but he played down the prospect of the 31-year-old coming to Leeds.
Rhinos have been linked with several potential targets, both in Super League and Australia’s NRL, but Hetherington insisted nothing has yet been decided and the search will be stepped up after Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final against Hull KR.
And Hetherington said Rhinos will not be using the marquee player allowance for next year, but may be prepared to pay a transfer fee if a suitable player becomes available.
“Robbie Farah ticks the boxes and we would love to sign a player of his standing,” Hetherington said.
“He would be a great addition to our squad for next season, but the marquee player arrangement does not help us because we don’t have £175,000 spare.”
Explaining that, Hetherington said although several top players are leaving at the end of the year, replacements have already been signed and the money has been allocated.
“For next season we are losing Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, but we have already signed Mitch Garbutt, Keith Galloway and Anthony Mullally and extended the contracts of Zak Hardaker and Brad Singleton,” he said.
“Garbutt has actually been a gift for this season, because he is being paid by [his previous club] Brisbane Broncos. He is effectively a signing for next season.
“So in our [salary] cap we have got the money we would have paid to Paul Aiton.
“We are already drawing up a list of possible replacements and we will progress that after the weekend.
“We are confident we will make the right choices, but there’s no time scale and no immediate urgency in that process.
“Anybody who comes in would not be coming in as a marquee player, but we do have the ability to buy somebody if the right player becomes available.”
Players already linked with Leeds include Manly Sea Eagles’ Matt Ballin, Hull’s Danny Houghton and Shaun Lunt, who is on loan at Hull KR from Huddersfield Giants, though the latter two are not front runners.
Hetherington added: “It is all part of the process, we are identifying who might be available and interested in coming to join us.
“It is all bubbling along behind the scenes and every now and again something pops up.
“Robbie Farah would certainly fit the bill as a player, no question about that, but I think it is important to explain to people what governs our ability to sign players, which is recent signings and the salary cap.”