NRL 2022: Knights circling Jack Hetherington, Matt Dufty secures deal in Super League

The roster rejig at the Bulldogs is gathering pace as NRL rivals circle a forward enforcer, while maligned fullback Matt Dufty has decided his future.

Newcastle is preparing to table Canterbury firebrand Jack Hetherington a three-year deal as the roster revamp at Belmore is in full swing with fullback Matt Dufty moving on.

Hetherington’s discussions come as Dufty officially took up a two-year contract to join Warrington in the English Super League from next season.

Hetherington met with Knights officials on Friday as he prepares to exit at the end of the season.

Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.

The Knights, Dragons, Cowboys and Titans have shown interest in the damaging forward.

Hetherington will give the Bulldogs one last shot at keeping him before making a final call.

Jack Hetherington has attracted interest from several NRL clubs. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Jack Hetherington has attracted interest from several NRL clubs. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

The 25-year-old is a free agent after the Bulldogs gave him permission to secure his future elsewhere. Canterbury don’t have the salary cap space to retain Hetherington on his $500,000 deal.

Adding to the likely separation is that Hetherington largely joined to be coached by Trent Barrett.

Barrett’s sudden departure last Monday all but put an end to Hetherington’s stint at the club.

The 25-year-old worked with Barrett in 2020 at Penrith and it was their strong relationship that led to his arrival at Belmore in 2021.

Physical and renowned for pushing the envelope, it was Barrett who pledged to keep Hetherington focused on the football field.

Hetherington met Knights coach Adam O’Brien on Friday, with Newcastle eager to add some starch to their pack in 2023.

While Hetherington is mulling over his future, Dufty will quit the club after just one season.

He met with Warrington officials during Magic Round and decided to join when his 12-month deal with Canterbury expires.

Warrington have also signed Tigers prop Thomas Mikaele and ex-Bulldog Sam Kasiano.

Newcastle’s interest in Hetherington comes as the club are yet to replace New Zealand-bound forward Mitch Barnett, although Lachlan Fitzgibbon has taken up his option to remain next year.

Matt Dufty will join Warrington in Super League. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Matt Dufty will join Warrington in Super League. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The Knights are still awaiting word on Adam Elliott after making a play for the Raiders forward. The Knights have offered a three-year deal to Elliott to have him join partner Millie Boyle at the club from next season.

Canberra matched Newcastle’s deal and hoped that would be enough to keep Elliott at the club long-term.

Hetherington will be among the high-profile exits at Belmore, including Dufty, Paul Vaughan, Jeremy Marshall-King, Joe Stimson and Brandon Wakeham.

Sidelined with a serious shoulder injury, Hetherington’s diligence towards his rehabilitation has resulted in his likely availability in round 19.

Canterbury’s off-season signing Brent Naden joined the Tigers last week.

CLUB LOCKS LODGE OUT AFTER WARRIORS WALKOUT

Matt Lodge has quit the Warriors immediately. Lodge has been granted an immediate release from the Warriors after opting against taking up a long-term deal with the club.

He had been named to play the Dragons on Saturday. It is understood Lodge has no immediate club lined up.

Lodge had an option in his favour to remain at the Warriors for one more season but told the club he did not want to travel to Auckland.

“I couldn’t see my family living in New Zealand for a long-term future,” said Lodge. “Therefore we decided that the best thing for the club was for us to mutually part ways so they have some clarity.

“I respect the club and especially the boys a lot and hopefully I showed that by the way I trained and played physical and gave my all every game.”

Matthew Lodge walked out on the Warriors. Picture NRL photos
Matthew Lodge walked out on the Warriors. Picture NRL photos

BENNETT SHUTS DOOR ON LODGE

Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins have ruled out a lifeline for Lodge following his shock decision to quit the Warriors.

Lodge has been consistently linked to the Dolphins, partly because the Warriors are temporarily based in Redcliffe, the home turf of the NRL’s 17th team as they prepare for their entry to the premiership next season.

Lodge has strong ties to the expansion newcomers. Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett resurrected his NRL career at the Broncos in 2018 after an off-field scandal, while the new franchise’s recruitment boss, Peter O’Sullivan, is Lodge’s father-in-law.

O’Sullivan, formerly the Warriors recruitment chief, helped lure Lodge to the Kiwi club from Brisbane last year, but it is understood the Dolphins cannot afford the 26-year-old under their salary cap for 2023.

The Penrith junior is keen to return to family in NSW after recently purchasing a home on Sydney’s northern beaches, fuelling speculation Lodge could end up at Manly.

The one certainty is he will not reunite with Bennett at the Dolphins, who have assembled an experienced pack headlined by premiership-winning Storm trio Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi.

The Warriors are due to return to New Zealand for their round 16 clash against Wests Tigers and Lodge confirmed he had no interest in a move across the Tasman.

Lodge has played 91 NRL games since his debut for the Wests Tigers in 2014 and has been in good form this season for the Warriors.

On Wednesday, Warriors football boss Craig Hodges said he was hopeful of keeping Lodge, who had recently knocked back an extension offer from the club.

“Things can change pretty quickly,” Hodges said before Lodge’s departure.

“Sometimes Lodgey is keen on New Zealand and sometimes he wants to get back closer to home in Sydney.

“We want to keep Matt. We haven’t put a formal deal to him yet.

“There’s no point putting deals to guys if they don’t want to move to New Zealand.”

WARRIORS EYE FORMER MAROON AS LODGE REPLACEMENT

David Riccio

The Warriors have reacted to the shock departure of Matt Lodge by opening negotiations with Queensland Origin forward Dunamis Lui.

Lui, who played for the Maroons in 2020, is edging towards signing with the Warriors for the remainder of the season.

Former Maroon is currently playing for the Redcliffe Dolphins’ QLD Cup team, but could make a move to the Warriors for the rest of 2022. Picture: Getty Images.
Former Maroon is currently playing for the Redcliffe Dolphins’ QLD Cup team, but could make a move to the Warriors for the rest of 2022. Picture: Getty Images.

The Warriors were left stunned when Lodge requested an immediate release from his contract on Friday.

He has been withdrawn from the Warriors side to face the Dragons on Saturday in Sydney.

Lui, 32, has played 169 NRL matches with his most recent stint with the Raiders last year.

The hard-running forward has been plying his trade in the QLD Cup with the Redcliffe Dolphins.

He has been linked to a one-year contract with the NRL Dolphins in 2023.

If the Warriors can broker a deal, Lui would join the squad on Monday.

Originally published as NRL 2022: Knights circling Jack Hetherington, Matt Dufty secures deal in Super League