Chad Townsend of the Sharks.
Chad Townsend of the Sharks. CRAIG GOLDING

Hunt deal a game-changer for Sharks half

IT'S the multi-million-dollar deal that's put Ben Hunt's name on the lips of every player manager in the NRL.

St George Illawarra's desperation to land a proven halfback and pay Hunt a $1 million a season over three years has inflated the market for playmakers.

As a result, some of the game's biggest halves are now demanding they receive the same contract value on the open market.

These include established names like Anthony Milford, Josh Reynolds, Shaun Johnson and gun Tigers duo Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.

Premiership-winning Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend is also set to benefit from the big dollars Hunt has received from the Dragons. Townsend is off-contract and faces a fight to remain with the defending premiers as they juggle the salary cap.

The Sharks have a number of stars unsigned beyond 2017 and looking for new deals, including Jack Bird and captain-in-waiting Wade Graham.

Cronulla have started preliminary discussions to retain Townsend, who according to his manager Gavin Orr, deserves similar money to what Hunt has commanded at St George Illawarra.

"Someone asked me what I'm going to ask for Chad if that's what Ben Hunt is worth," Orr said. "Well if Chad is a grand final-winning half then I should be able to get $1.2 million for him."

Orr said Townsend's first preference was to remain at the Sharks, but he was also mindful of what he can earn on the open market. It's why the Yarrawarrah Tigers junior recently met with two Sydney-based clubs.

Orr believes the NRL has a lack of quality organising halfbacks, which places Townsend in a strong position for the future.

"The biggest thing is that there are not many halfbacks out there," he said. "I've already had three clubs ring me about Chad because he is an organiser.

"He is different to Corey Norman, Milford or Widdop. They are runners and they are not organisers.

"The clubs are looking for organisers and people who can carry out game plans and that will work in Chad's favour."

News Corp Australia

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