Broncos fighting Warriors for Fifita
The Broncos are facing the salary cap fight of their lives to retain David Fifita, with the Warriors joining the Eels in a big-money bid to poach the Queensland Origin sensation.
Having failed to secure Brisbane teammates Matt Lodge and Jake Turpin, the Warriors are cashed-up and ready to outbid the Broncos for Fifita, one of the club's hottest back-row prospects of the past 20 years.
It is understood the Warriors and Parramatta are prepared to pay between $700,000 to $1 million a season for the rampaging 19-year-old - offers the Broncos currently cannot match under the salary cap.
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It means Fifita will have to accept less to stay at Red Hill, or the Broncos will have to clear cap space to fund a bidding war, possibly by squeezing out veteran back-rower Alex Glenn and negotiating a severance package with struggling skipper Darius Boyd.
Fifita is off-contract at the end of next year, meaning he can begin formal talks with NRL rivals from November 1.
The Broncos will look to begin extension talks with the 107kg wrecking ball at the end of this month, giving them an eight-week headstart before the Warriors and Eels attempt to blow Brisbane out of the water.
Melbourne champion Cameron Smith last week warned Brisbane face having their roster ripped apart and former Queensland lock Billy Moore said the prospect of losing Fifita would be a savage blow to their title ambitions.
"It's absolutely essential they keep David," Moore said.
"If you look at the journey they are on, the Broncos have mortgaged their house on these young stars in the forwards.
"They have kept Lodge, (Payne) Haas and Tevita Pangai Jr, so if Fifita quits, it would be a disaster.
"It really hurt them when they lost Josh McGuire (to the Cowboys) and now they can't afford to lose Fifita.
"He has played Origin this season and he is just about to bear fruit, so it would be a shame if another club pinched Fifita and bore the fruits of what the Broncos have developed."
Fifita, who plays his 31st NRL game on Friday night against Penrith, is on course to be one of the stars of the code.
In the space of 12 months, the hard-running back-row brute went from playing under-18s Mal Meninga Cup to a Queensland Origin senior debut in June.
Brisbane legend Darren Lockyer, a member of the club's recruitment-and-retention committee, admits the Broncos must fight hard to keep Fifita.
"That's the thing with the salary cap, you can't keep them all," he said.
"David Fifita came through our system and we want to keep him here long-term."
Moore believes Brisbane will struggle to win a bidding war.
"If the Warriors are prepared to pay $1 million a season, then Brisbane is in real trouble," he said.
"They simply couldn't compete with an offer like that and Fifita would have to go.
"Fifita is a future international. I see him being a 10-year Origin player and I hope it's at the Broncos and not elsewhere, because Brisbane have put in the hard yards."