Gold Coast have set their sights on unwanted Canterbury centre Tim Lafai in the wake of star James Roberts’ decision to walk out on the club.
The beleaguered Titans were left embarrassed again on Monday after the Dally M centre of the year knocked back a revised contract.
Roberts’ contract was declared void after it was discovered that former football manager Scott Clark had forged his signature on the paperwork.
Roberts has now been linked with Brisbane as well as former clubs South Sydney and Penrith.
He was sacked from both for alcohol-fuelled incidents early in his career before turning his fortunes around at the Gold Coast.
Lafai is being hunted by several clubs including Parramatta, St George Illawarra and Penrith, after being jettisoned by Canterbury to make room for Will Hopoate.
Peta Hiku, who’s been told he is unwanted at Manly, could also be targeted by the Titans.
Titans chief executive Graham Annesley said the club was chasing several possible replacements for Roberts – within budget.
“We’re not prepared to pay overs, we will pay what we think is an appropriate price for players that we are interested in securing,” Annesley said.
Titans back-rower Greg Bird said he wished Roberts well but said he believed the forgery drama had been used as a convenient excuse to get out of his contract.
“I’m pretty sure (the forgery drama) had nothing to do with Jimmy wanting to leave,” Bird said.
“If he wanted to leave, he would have got out whether he had those contract problems or not.”
Asked if he thought it was a convenient excuse, Bird said: “Yeah, I pretty much do. It was used as a scapegoat really.”
Roberts’ departure leaves the Titans, who finished 14th and one win off last place in 2015, in a massive hole for next year.
Roberts has been touted as a future NSW State of Origin representative and Bird described him as one of the club’s few shining lights.
According to Fox Sports Stats, of the Titans’ 76 tries in season 2015, Roberts was directly involved in over a third of them. He crossed 16 times, set up another five and had a hand in another three.
Bird described Roberts’ decision as disappointing after the Titans helped him get his career back on track.
“We contributed to turning his career around, helping him out, pointing him in the right direction after getting him from being sacked from another club to where he is now after getting Dally M centre of the year,” he said.
“The club’s done a good job with him and best of luck to him.”