Newcastle Knights officials are set to meet with St George Illawarra backrower Tyson Frizell next week as the club ramps up its bid to lure him away from the Dragons.
The Knights have made the Kangaroos' Test star their major recruitment target for 2021 and have already tabled a three year deal which would make him one of the club's highest paid players if he accepts the offer.
The Dragons have also offered a three-year extension but will find it difficult to match the Knights financially because of their precarious salary cap position.
Knights CEO Phil Gardner was reluctant to divulge details of the negotiations after news broke of the club's interest in Frizell on Thursday but confirmed he is on the club's radar.
"Tyson Frizell is a player we would love to have at our club," Gardner said.
"If there is genuine interest from him coming to the Knights, we would welcome that absolutely.
"He is exactly the type of player we are looking for but at the end of the day, it will come down to whether he is willing to leave the Dragons."
Since joining the club, Knights coach Adam O'Brien has made no secret of his desire to sign a top level backrower, believing it is one of the positions that needs strengthen the most.
Melbourne Storm forward Felise Kaufusi has been spoken about in the past as a potential target but Frizell is now at the top of the club's wish-list.
"He ticks every box and we'd love to see him in the red and blue," Gardner said. "He'd be a great fit for the Knights. Any club would be lucky to have him.
"He is a high quality person, a team player, he's tough and a current Australian representative and we've made no secret of the fact we are in the market for a marquee backrower. It doesn't get much better than that."
Gardner did not want to comment on where the negotiations were at but sources have told the Newcastle Herald a further meeting has been slated for next week with a decision likely one way or the other sooner rather than later.
It is unclear whether any other rival clubs are seriously pursuing Frizell.
Speculation surrounding the future of the Dragons star, who has been a fixture at Kogarah since 2013, first surfaced as early as July last year when there was talk he wanted a release from the final year of his contract.
The rumours, immediately following the State of Origin series, were denied at the time and nothing eventuated. But generally in the NRL, where there is smoke, there is fire.
Given the uncertainly surrounding Dragons forward Jack De Belin's playing future, there appears little chance the club would agree to release Frizell early even if he did opt to take up the Knights deal for 2021.
But such is the strength of Newcastle's salary cap position, there is no question the club could accommodate him immediately if he suddenly became available.
"You never know what's around the corner in this game," one source said.
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