Wests Tigers “absolutely” have a realistic chance of re-signing their quartet of off-contract stars on long-term NRL deals, according to coach Jason Taylor.
Captain Aaron Woods, together with fullback James Tedesco and halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks are set to become free agents when their deals expire at the end of the 2017 season.
With match-winners in hot demand across the league, and Woods now one of the premier props in the game, the club face a difficult task keeping their team core together.
However Taylor is confident of retaining all four players.
“Absolutely, no doubt about that,” Taylor told Big Sports Breakfast.
The club arguably has more money in their salary cap than any other club in the competition, with just six players of their projected top 17 committed next year.
Matt Ballin, Tim Grant, Jamal Idris, Kyle Lovett, Kevin Naiqama, David Nofoaluma, Ava Seumanufagai and Tim Simona are all without a club in 2018.
Taylor, who himself is without a contract beyond November, said the club would endeavour to limit persistent speculation over the future of his players to prevent it detracting from on-field efforts in 2017.
“I’m not going to allow it to be a situation where every time one of our players does media that they’re going to asked those questions,” he said.
“We’ll update everybody when there’s updates to be given. But otherwise, it’s just something we don’t need to be continually talking about.
“It’s important, we want to get it done. But so is a performance this season.
“Everyone’s worked hard to get our squad to the point that it’s at right now.”
The Tigers, who finished one spot out of the top eight last year, were one of the least active clubs in the player market this summer, and are at long odds with bookmakers to win the title.
Taylor revealed Idris, one of the few players they did sign, had dropped 10 kilograms since arrival and was pencilled in to play in the backline.
“We didn’t sign him for any reason than for him to play in the centres at this point in time, but I’m not saying that won’t change,” he said.