If James Maloney and Cronulla can’t find a common way forward, expect the Sharks to make a huge play for Cooper Cronk later this year.
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Maloney’s demands for an upgrade have agitated Sharks officials to the point that the club has now formulated a clear Plan B.
As we revealed a few weeks ago, unhappy Rabbitoh Cody Walker has been discussed as an option.
But Walker would take a backseat to Cronk, should the Melbourne star decide to continue his career in Sydney.
The Storm have already offered Cronk a handsome deal worth around $200,000-a-season to mentor their halves in 2018, a job that would only require intermittent trips away from bride-to-be Tara Rushton.
When coupled with his media work, that would translate to a very comfortable living.
The smart money remains on Cronk hanging up the boots – and Cronulla are wary of being left stranded at the altar should they let Maloney go.
Four clubs – the Warriors, Storm, Rabbitohs and Knights – are tempting Maloney with three-year deals valued at around $3 million.
We keep hearing Souths is his preferred option. Maloney was extremely close to signing with the Rabbitohs in 2012, only to have an eleventh-hour change of heart and join the Roosters.
If Maloney did head to Redfern, Walker would then be free to go.
Maloney only stands to earn just over $1 million for the remaining 16 months of his contract at Cronulla.
Both parties have agreed to let the issue rest until the Origin series is decided. Once talks are re-opened, expect a resolution within weeks.