Canterbury look set to ramp up negotiations with boom half Moses Mbye with Trent Hodkinson reportedly on the outer at Belmore.
Mbye is not off contract until the end of 2016 but the Bulldogs are looking wrap him up long-term after learning from the mistake of letting Johnathan Thurston slip through their fingers over a decade ago.
The 21-year-old Queenslander has already attracted interest from rival clubs after a blistering start to the first 13 rounds and is shaping as a hot commodity when he becomes a free agent after next year.
The Bulldogs hope to extend Mbye’s contract but also have Josh Reynolds and NSW halfback Hodkinson on their books and face an impossible task to keep all three.
On Thursday, Channel Seven reported that Hodkinson, who is off contract this year, is unhappy with a two-year deal tabled by the Bulldogs and was in talks with the Titans and English Super League clubs, which would free up salary cap space for Mbye.
Mbye has received comparisons to Queensland and Australian playmaker Thurston, who also began his NRL career playing off the bench for the Bulldogs.
However, after the 2004 season, the Bulldogs allowed Thurston to shift to North Queensland in favour of keeping established halves Braith Anasta and Brent Sherwin.
And the Bulldogs would be wary of Mbye’s career taking off at the same trajectory as Thurston’s following his move to Townsville.
Mbye starred for the Bulldogs in their 29-16 win over St George Illawarra on Monday after being started ahead of former NSW five-eighth Reynolds.
He delivered for coach Des Hasler by kicking a sideline conversion to level the scores before booting the field goal that killed off any hope of a Dragons’ comeback in a man-of-the-match performance.
Four teams are reportedly circling for Mbye’s signature.
The Gold Coast need a playmaker for next year, following Daly Cherry-Evans’ reversal, but the Bulldogs are unlikely to release their rising star.
Bulldogs back-rower Greg Eastwood said it was “scary” how good Mbye was going to be and hoped to see him stay at Belmore.
“He’s still young and still learning,” Eastwood said.
“Every time he’s put on that halfback jersey he’s gone well, he’s got a couple of man-of-the-matches.
“He’s still growing and it’s scary what he’s going to turn out to be fully developed.”