NRL 2023 transfer news: Tigers sign former bulldog Brandon Wakeham, Broncos sign Marty Taupau
The depth of the Tiger halves received a much-needed boost ahead of the 2023 season after losing Jackson Hastings and Jock Madden. Check out the latest transfer news.
The Wests Tigers have increased the depth of their halves for the upcoming NRL season by signing Canterbury provider Brandon Wakeham.
Wakeham signed a one-year deal with the Tigers on Monday to replace first-choice halves Luke Brooks and Adam Doueihi.
Veteran coach Tim Sheens signed the 24-year-old after being impressed with his performances last year, having started the season in first class before leading the NSW Cup side to the grand final.
He is a key signing for the Tigers having lost Jackson Hastings to Newcastle and Jock Madden to Brisbane.
TITANS APPROACH FIFITA WHILE RAIDERS’ DEAL COLLAPSES
—Travis Meyn, Brent Read
The Gold Coast Titans are hoping to re-sign David Fifita within weeks after a proposed package deal with NRLW star Shaylee Bent to Canberra fell through.
The Sunday Post may reveal that Fifita and Bent, who have been in a relationship, will make individual decisions about their future as players.
The Raiders hoped to lure Fifita and Bent to Canberra just as Newcastle signed NRL power couple Adam Elliott and Millie Boyle.
There is a possibility that both players will join the Raiders – however, their choice of club will not be dependent on each other.
Despite interest from Canberra, the Titans are growing increasingly confident of securing Fifita for a multi-year extension before the 2023 NRL Premiership begins in March.
Fifita, 22, is one of the highest-paid free agents in the NRL. His Titans deal worth more than $3 million expires at the end of next season.
The Titans have been negotiating an extension with Fifita for months but face a battle with the likes of the Raiders and Dragons for the explosive ballrunner.
Fifita has toured Canberra’s headquarters, with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart ready to offer the former Queensland Origin forward up to $900,000 a season to travel to the nation’s capital.
Titans CEO Steve Mitchell said the club hopes to keep Fifita.
“It’s hard to talk about retention and recruitment but we’re hoping for a positive outcome with David,” he said.
“David is enjoying the environment here but we have no illusions about how badly other clubs might want David given his ability.
“I think he enjoys the club and has a good environment here. He enjoys the coaching staff and the playgroup.
“Dave has been with us for a couple of years and we want him to stay.
“He’s been good and training well, he seems to be in a good place. Reports of his training were strong and he put his head down and got to work.”
Fifita has had a tumultuous two years on the Gold Coast since leaving the Broncos in 2020 to sign one of the richest deals in NRL history.
He pocketed a whopping $1.2 million in 2021 and netted a club record with 17 tries as he helped the Titans to a drought-breaking final.
However, last season was a struggle for Fifita, hampered by a knee injury and questionable picking decisions from coach Justin Holbrook as the Titans plummeted to the last four.
Fifita’s confidence took a hit when he was played out of position and off the bench, with injury limiting him to 18 games and seven tries.
He lost his Maroons jersey but found some form towards the end of the year and represented Tonga at the World Cup.
Holbrook said the Titans’ coaching staff and playmakers – led by Manly recruit Kieran Foran – were working hard to formulate a game plan to maximize Fifita’s destructive talent this year.
“To get the best out of him this year, everyone has to be,” Holbrook told SEN.
“It’s up to us as coaches, Dave himself and the halves. It’s a combination of all three.
“We make sure we give him opportunities by boosting his confidence and getting a little bit fitter than last year and at half-time.
“We all love to see what he does in the game. You don’t have to be a Titans fan to see those frantic runs and how difficult he is to stop.
“In Dave’s defense, it’s hard to do that every time. You can’t have everything but we definitely need him back to his best.
“I want him to play Rep Footy again. He’s such a deadly weapon, but we have to make sure we get the best out of him.
“We’re working hard in training to make sure we give him some opportunities.”
Fifita will play on the right flank alongside halfback Tanah Boyd, with whom he has a strong combination from their Keebra Park High days together.
BRONCOS’ DELICATE BATTLE TO HOLD THE STAR
Broncos bosses face a tricky salary-cap juggling act to keep Tom Flegler at Red Hill while Kevin Walters bolsters his forward pack with Test veteran Marty Taupau.
Taupau will join the Broncos immediately after signing a one-year deal to extend his NRL career in Brisbane for the 2023 Premiership.
Taupau, who turns 33 next month, will join Brisbane’s center forward rotation and bring 222 games of NRL experience to a mostly young engine room.
Taupau, a 33-Test representative for New Zealand (24) and Samoa (nine), was not offered a contract extension by Manly after seven seasons with the Sea Eagles and faced the NRL scrapyard.
However, Walters gave him an NRL lifeline in the 11th hour, with Taupau set to begin practice with the Broncos next week.
Taupau’s signing will further bolster a promising pack of forwards including Kangaroo stars Payne Haas and Pat Carrigan.
The Broncos also have Corey Jensen, Keenan Palasia, Kobe Hetherington and Flegler competing for center forward spots along with youngsters Xavier Willison and Logan Bayliss.
Flegler, 23, is out of contract at the end of this year and is currently on the open market after changing management company to broker his next deal.
The signing of Taupau is not expected to affect Flegler’s future.
However, with Carrigan seeking a contract upgrade after his 2022 breakout campaign and Brisbane’s current highest-paid player Haas leaving the contract in late 2024, the Broncos face a salary cap.
Flegler is a justice magnet who struggles with discipline on the field. He has yet to consistently fulfill his potential and salary package and was limited to 18 games last year due to suspensions.
The Broncos hold Flegler in high esteem and are working to re-sign him as he enters the prime of his career and begins a fifth NRL season.
The club believe Flegler wants to stay at Red Hill despite likely receiving rich offers to leave Brisbane.
But squeezing a number of highly paid forwards into the salary cap will be a challenge and competition for spots will be fierce this year.
Jensen, 29, had a promising first season with the Broncos last year after leaving North Queensland.
He made 18 NRL appearances and started 11 of those games, something he rarely did in five seasons with the Cowboys.
“Last year I had the chance to start and really enjoyed it. I didn’t have this chance before in my career,” said Jensen.
“(I like to play) wherever Kevvie sees it best for me on the team. Everyone wants to start, but we have a job to do, whether it’s coming off the bank or starting.
“My focus was on getting better in every game. Wherever I play, I do that.”
Jensen is pushing to back Haas on the front row for Brisbane’s NRL season opener against Penrith. Next month’s trials will give Walters an idea of how his team is developing.
Jensen, a Townsville product, said he’s enjoyed the move south and wants to take his game to another level this year.
“I felt like coming here was a new life,” he said.
“It was a big step. I’ve lived up there all my life and I’m a family man, so getting out of my comfort zone here was a big deal.
“It really woke me up and rejuvenated my career. It gave me another way to learn.
“There are a lot of good players here and that was the advantage back then. I knew I had the better football in me. So far it has worked well.
“I tried to enjoy my football. There is a great group of young footballers who are willing to learn. You keep me busy.
“I want to be better than them. We will continue to push each other strongly.”
Originally released as NRL 2023 transfer news: Tigers sign former bulldog Brandon Wakeham, Broncos sign Marty Taupau
https://www.codesports.com.au/sport/nrl-2023-transfer-news-brisbane-broncos-sign-marty-taupau-on-oneyear-deal/news-story/c63c1a417ce6566685dab590c2fc8ca4?nk=f03d94d9b80c7760825336fb205cc1d9-1674437947 NRL 2023 transfer news: Tigers sign former bulldog Brandon Wakeham, Broncos sign Marty Taupau