Source Daily Telegraph
Parramatta’s fight to retain Reed Mahoney has dramatically escalated after it emerged the Brisbane Broncos were weighing up whether to turn the battle for his signature into a south east Queensland bunfight.
Mahoney is off contract at the end of 2022 and it is understood initial talks have taken place between his camp and the Broncos over a return to Queensland.
Mahoney has also been linked with the Dolphins as his management explore his options at the NRL’s newest franchise, which is due to enter the premiership from 2023.
It is unclear whether Mahoney’s camp have also held talks with the Gold Coast, although the Titans’ search for a hooker has been no secret given they have also flagged an interest in Melbourne rake Brandon Smith.
Sources confirmed to News Corp that the Broncos had been approached over Mahoney and discussions had taken place, although they were very much in the embryonic stage.
It is understood Brisbane are yet to formalise their plans for the 2023 season, although hooker Jake Turpin is off contract at the end of next season and like Mahoney, is up for grabs from November 1.
The Broncos have been steadily rebuilding their roster – they have signed South Sydney captain Adam Reynolds and Penrith premiership winner Kurt Capewell for next season – and their interest in Mahoney is likely to hinge on what direction they decide to take with Turpin, who captained Brisbane on occasions this season.
Mahoney has quickly become one of the most coveted players on the open market and the rising interest in him is set to heap more pressure on Parramatta as they attempt to retain a roster that went within a whisker of the preliminary final this season.
Mahoney aside, the Eels are locked in a fight to retain the likes of Clint Gutherson, Isaiah Papali’i, Junior Paulo, Marate Niukore and Maika Sivo, all of whom are free to sign deals with rival clubs from November 1.
Niukore has already spoken to St George Illawarra and the Warriors, and the Eels are facing an intense battle to hold onto the New Zealand back rower.
Prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard has also indicated he will head to market on November 1 as he pursues a deal for the 2023 season, potentially at the Dolphins.
The last thing the Eels need is a scrap for Mahoney, yet that is exactly what they are facing as he contemplates a return to Queensland.
Mahoney was on the verge of State of Origin selection this year when he was named as part of the extended squad for the Maroons, but a shoulder problem cost him any chance of making his Queensland debut.
His season was then brought to a premature end when his shoulder gave way for good only a matter of weeks before the finals.
The Eels soldiered on without Mahoney and they may have to get used to his absence as he opens talks with teams in south east Queensland about a potential homecoming – he was born on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and played his junior rugby league at Kawana and Beerwah before moving to Sydney to play SG Ball for the Bulldogs.
The good news for Parramatta is that if Mahoney decides to return home, there are hooking options off contract at the end of next season.
The Eels are expected to fortify their depth in the position by singing former Gold Coast rake Mitch Rein as backup to Mahoney this season. At the end of 2022, Smith and Penrith hooker Api Koroisau are among the quality hookers up for grabs.
Wade Egan and Blake Brailey are also off contract while the Tigers may have a surplus of No. 9s if Josh Hodgson completes his move to the club. That said, the Eels would be loath to lose Mahoney given the way he has elevated his game over the past 12 months.