NRL newcomers the Dolphins are growing increasingly confident in their chase for star Parramatta five-eighth Dylan Brown, potentially giving Wayne Bennett the dream halves partnership of the future.
The talk is the Dolphins will go in excess of $1-million-a-season to tempt the Kiwi star away from Parramatta, which is way more than the Eels are prepared to pay to keep Brown.
The other concern for the Eels is that potentially losing Mitchell Moses would also make it more temping for Brown to leave, especially on the back of the recent exit of gun dummy half Reed Mahoney to the Bulldogs.
And the growing fear is it could ultimately end up costing the 2022 NRL grand finalists it’s two biggest stars.
But for Bennett it could end up the key signing the Dolphins have been sweating on all year after copping it for all the players they have missed out on.
Bennett is not only a massive fan of the star Kiwi five-eighth, but he already has gun teenager Isaiya Katoa locked away as the Dolphins’ long-term No.7.
Katoa is widely considered the most dominant young playmaker emerging in the game, with the Penrith junior recently playing for Tonga at the World Cup.
Given Brown is still only 22, it would give the NRL’s newest franchise a massive foundation for years to come.
Meanwhile, Moses stands to pocket as much as $1.4 million-a-season to sign with Wests Tigers, which would make him the highest paid player in the game.
And while the Bulldogs won’t go that big, they are said to be willing to go to well over the reported $1m-a-season the Eels are currently prepared to pay to keep their star halfback.
The other potential factor in all this is that the Dogs are also closing in on signing Penrith centre Stephen Crichton to play fullback.
Securing Moses would complete a star-studded spine when you throw in Mahoney at hooker and Matt Burton at five-eighth.
But where that would potentially leave Parramatta is in a world of hurt.
It is understood Moses’ camp has told the Tigers and Dogs he will let them know his answer one way or another by Christmas.
And while Brown is not expected to make his final decision until closer to the start of the new season in March, the longer it drags out the more it puts Parramatta in an unenviable position