Sport Confidential: Jayden Campbell facing squeeze at Titans, NRL clubs chase Scott Drinkwater

Veteran veteran five-eighth Kieran Foran’s arrival on the Gold Coast could force a rising Titans star out — all that and more in Sport Confidential.

Titans dynamo Jayden Campbell is facing an uncertain future as Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook attempts to squeeze four into three.

Campbell is shaping as the most likely Titan to leave the Gold Coast in the coming months ahead of a log-jam of talent in 2023.

With veteran five-eighth Kieran Foran on the way to partner young halfback Toby Sexton in the halves, Holbrook has to find space for fullbacks Campbell and AJ Brimson in the Gold Coast’s starting side.

The Titans may not have space for Jayden Campbell. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
The Titans may not have space for Jayden Campbell. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

It’s clear Brimson and Campbell are out-and-out fullbacks that need to wear the No.1 jersey.

With Brimson signed until 2026, Campbell could be on the move, with a glut of clubs making enquiries about his future.

Campbell has committed to the Titans until 2024 but could secure more money and a longer term deal elsewhere if he wants to leave the Gold Coast.

$2M RAID FOR COWBOYS STAR

Scott Drinkwater has become one of the most sought-after players in the game with NRL rivals launching a massive $2 million poaching raid on the in-form Cowboys fullback.

Sport Confidential can reveal four NRL clubs, including the Dolphins, are circling Drinkwater, who produced yet another masterclass in North Queensland’s defeat of the Dragons at Kogarah last week.

The Dolphins have tabled a three-year deal for Drinkwater, while other NRL suitors have discussed offers in excess of $700,000 for the classy custodian.

Drinkwater is contracted to the Cowboys until the end of 2023, making him a free agent from November 1, and North Queensland bosses are under mounting pressure to table an upgraded deal for the man who steered the club to NRL Nines glory in 2020.

Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

Scott Drinkwater is a man in demand. Picture: NRL Images
Scott Drinkwater is a man in demand. Picture: NRL Images

The 25-year-old has played 66 NRL games since his debut for Melbourne in 2018 and has been a revelation this season in the Cowboys’ charge into the top two.

Drinkwater was on the outer in the opening month, losing the No.1 jumper to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, but an injury to the ‘Hammer’ opened the door and ‘Drinky’ has charged right through it with some sizzling form.

The Dolphins were hoping to have Drinkwater on their books for their foundation season in 2023, but with the Cowboys refusing an early release, the NRL’s 17th team have come back with a multi-year offer from 2024.

It is understood the Knights are also eyeing off Drinkwater, who can also play five-eighth, in a desperate bid to bolster their scrumbase stocks following the impending departure of Anthony Milford to the Dolphins.

PANTHERS ENTER TIGER’S DEN FOR MADDEN

Premiers Penrith are targeting Wests Tigers young gun Jock Madden as the big guns chase a halfback understudy for No.7 superstar Nathan Cleary.

With Panthers back-up playmaker Sean O’Sullivan off to the Dolphins next season, Penrith have moved to bolster their scrumbase stocks by tabling an offer for Madden, who was outstanding in last week’s Tigers boilover of the Broncos.

The 22-year-old remains off-contract at the Tigers and is being chased by five NRL rivals, with the Sharks and Newcastle also expressing interest in Madden. His management have also offered his services to South Sydney and the Titans, who have signed veteran Manly playmaker Kieran Foran for next season.

Jock Madden would provide handy halves depth for the Panthers. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images
Jock Madden would provide handy halves depth for the Panthers. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Madden’s preference is to stay at the Tigers but his manager says the former Australian Schoolboy is likely to leave the club if they persist with Luke Brooks at halfback.

“He wants to stay at the Tigers if they can explain to him his role and their pathway for him,” Madden’s agent Chris Orr said.

“He has been waiting two years behind Luke Brooks for game time here and there. On the weekend, he was given a chance at halfback where he has played his whole life and he produced a blinder against the Broncos.

“The Tigers haven’t made an offer at this stage. Tim Sheens (football boss) has called me and said he wants to keep him, but he has interest from a number of clubs including Penrith, the Sharks and Newcastle.

“The Titans called me and asked me where he is at with the Tigers and what’s he doing for next season. They are watching him, he is playing well, so Jock will make a final call in the next week or so.”

* * * * *

THE PVL PROMISE WHICH WILL DISAPPOINT QLD FANS

Queensland is at long odds to steal the NRL grand final despite the latest ructions between the NSW government and ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys over an $800 million suburban stadium funding deal.

Sport Confidential understands Suncorp Stadium is a last-resort option to host this year’s decider, with V’landys conceding the NRL would be “hypocrites” if they shifted the 2022 grand final to Queensland.

Talks between the NSW government and V’landys broke down on Monday when premier Dominic Perrottet revealed plans to withdraw $250m slated for Sydney suburban stadiums due to budgetary pressures.

The odds are lengthening on Suncorp Stadium hosting consecutive NRL Grand Finals. Picture: Josh Woning
The odds are lengthening on Suncorp Stadium hosting consecutive NRL Grand Finals. Picture: Josh Woning

The NRL had agreed to keep the grand final in Sydney until 2042 based on the NSW government committing to a suburban stadium upgrade, but Perrottet’s stance has triggered a Mexican stand-off.

Speculation is rife the NRL grand final will be handed to Suncorp Stadium for a second consecutive season if the NSW government fails to honour their initial pledge on Sydney stadiums funding.

While V’landys has slammed Perrottet for reneging on what he believes is a handshake deal, the ARLC chairman admits robbing NSW of the NRL grand final would be a massive call.

“More than likely, we will honour our part of the agreement with the NSW government because we can’t be hypocrites,” he said.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys says it would be hypocritical to move the Grand Final to Queensland. Picture: David Swift.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys says it would be hypocritical to move the Grand Final to Queensland. Picture: David Swift.

“If we want the NSW government to honour their part of the deal, we have to honour our part, then we can demand they uphold their part of the bargain.

“All options are on the table, but if we have an agreement with the NSW government and we expect them to honour it, we have to honour it as well.

“We have a legally binding agreement.

“It’s a bit of a Catch-22, but it (the location of the NRL grand final) is a decision for the ARL Commission and that decision will be made in the next couple of days.

“The Queensland government has always been a pleasure to deal with and they always honour their agreements, unlike NSW.”

V’landys claims Perrottet assured him he would sign off on the stadium-funding plan before the NSW floods crisis sparked a change of heart.

“We looked the premier in the eye, we shook his hand, we did a deal and he has blatantly reneged,” V’landys said.

“When you shake someone’s hand you honour that agreement. To take the cake, they used the human tragedy of the floods to spin their way out of it, it takes it to another level.

“Perrottet said to me and Andrew Abdo (NRL CEO) a few months ago, please be assured I will deliver.

“Now since I’ve got back from an overseas trip, he said he can’t honour the deal.

“This is about principle and people honouring their word. How can you do a deal with anyone if they are going to renege on you? A contract is a contract. You don’t cherry pick when you are going to honour an agreement.

“We have to encourage kids to get off computers and video games and play sport. These suburban grounds are community assets that will encourage kids to play sport.”

* * * * *

BRONCOS WHIZ WALKS IN LEGEND’S FOOTSTEPS

Broncos sensation Deine Mariner has revealed how former Brisbane skipper Justin Hodges has inspired his rise to the NRL.

Rated one of the club’s finest centre prospects, Mariner made his NRL debut in last week’s loss to the Tigers and was retained for Brisbane’s blockbuster against the Roosters at the SCG.

The 19-year-old showed some nice touches in the Tigers defeat and says his development as a centre has been helped by watching footage of Queensland Origin star Valentine Holmes and Maroons legend Hodges.

Hodges remains one of Brisbane’s greatest centres, playing 193 first-grade games for the club and captaining the Broncos in the 2015 grand-final loss to the Cowboys.

“I like watching Valentine Holmes and Justin Hodges,” Mariner said.

“To make my NRL debut was something special. It was a dream come true playing at a ground like Suncorp in front of my family and friends. It was unreal.

“I had about 100 family and friends in the crowd, I brought the whole tribe along to Suncorp.

“It was heart-warming to see my whole family there with their banners when I ran out, it was really special.”

Such is Mariner’s talent, he is already on the radar of New Zealand coach Michael Maguire for this year’s World Cup.

While he attended Palm Beach Currumbin High on the Gold Coast, Mariner was born in New Zealand and only moved to Australia at the age of 16, making him ineligible for State of Origin.

“I was born in New Zealand and didn’t move here until I was 16, so I’m definitely a Kiwi,” he said.

The explosive Mariner is tipped for a long future at centre for the Broncos and said he was hoping to break into the NRL this season.

“To be honest, at the start of the year I was setting little goals and it (playing NRL) was a goal I set,” he said.“I am really happy to get my opportunity to debut.

“I will do whatever is best for the team. Hopefully I can stay in the NRL. If the coach needs me at centre or 18th man, I will do whatever is best for the Broncos.”

* * * * *

GOOD KNIGHT FOR ENGLISH YOUNG GUNS

Struggling Newcastle have won the battle for the British Sonny Bill Williams and one of England’s most promising playmakers.

Sport Confidential understands the Knights have secured the services of Wigan back-row sensation Kai Pearce-Paul and Huddersfield halfback whizkid Will Pryce.

The 19-year-old Pryce is the son of former 24-Test England star Leon, while the 21-year-old Pearce-Paul is regarded as one of the most dynamic ball-running forwards in Super League with a style similar to NRL legend Sonny Bill.

The Knights are keeping quiet on the recruitment drive because the duo are contracted to their respective English clubs for next season, but Newcastle have Pearce-Paul and Pryce on their books for 2024.

Newcastle have made subtle inquiries about having Pearce-Paul and Pryce in Knights colours next season, but Wigan and Huddersfield are reluctant to agree to an early release for the rising stars.

* * * * *

FLANAGAN’S TITANIC WARNING

Former Cronulla premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan insists he has not been approached by the Bulldogs as he weighs up his next move in the NRL.

Flanagan has been discussed by Titans powerbrokers as a possible option to assist Justin Holbrook at the Gold Coast and the 56-year-old has also been linked with the Bulldogs post vacated by Trent Barrett.

Flanagan’s son Kyle is a halfback at the Bulldogs. However, the man who broke Cronulla’s 50-year premiership hoodoo insists he has had no dialogue with Canterbury chiefs and insists he is in no rush to return to NRL head coaching.

Flanagan, who has had a head-coaching ban lifted by the NRL, works in a recruitment role for the Dragons and has impressed as an expert commentator for Fox Sports.

“No they (the Bulldogs) didn’t approach me,” he said.

“I imagine Cameron Ciraldo will be announced as Bulldogs coach. I’m just reading the media on it and I think it will happen sooner rather than later.

The Titans need to make their mark says Shane Flanagan. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
The Titans need to make their mark says Shane Flanagan. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

“Fox have been fantastic to me, so I’m really enjoying my role with them. I can coach now, my issue with the NRL was over 12 months ago, so I can do it and when i get a job I don’t know.

“If the right option comes up, I will go and do it.

“Three or four years ago, I was thinking I need to get back to coaching, but now I have a lot going on. I haven’t lost the passion for it, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen.”

Flanagan has not been formally approached by the Titans, but is open to helping rebuild the embattled Gold Coast.

“The Titans don’t have an identity at the moment,” he said.

“They need to find out what they are good at and make a mark.

“With the Dolphins coming in, they could risk being the third poor brother to the two Brisbane teams if they don’t pull their finger out.

“The Titans have some good young forwards like Tino (Fa’asuamaleaui), but they need to sort out their halves and fullback if they want to get back up there again as a finals team.”

* * * * *

COWARD PUNCH VICTIM RETURNS

Titans flyer Treymain Spry has returned to the field after recovering from horrific injuries following an alleged coward punch.

Spry made his rugby league return in the local Gold Coast A-grade competition for the Helensvale Hornets last weekend, six months after the Fortitude Valley attack.

Spry was left with a fractured skull, broken eye socket and bleeding on the brain following an alleged one-punch attack, which is before the courts.

He spent three months recovering before being ushered back into training at a snail’s pace.

Now Spry is back on the field and set to turn out in the Hostplus Cup this weekend for Tweed in Sunday’s local derby against Burleigh.

* * * * *

REECE LIGHTNING FOR BRONCOS

Craig Hodges says Reece Walsh will be a smash hit at the Broncos as the Warriors football boss broke his silence on his own departure from the Kiwi club.

Just weeks after Walsh inked a three-year deal with the Broncos from next season, Hodges dropped a bombshell on the Warriors, submitting his resignation on Tuesday with two years still left to run on his contract.

Former Broncos under-20s coach Hodges built a strong rapport with Walsh at the Warriors and says the 19-year-old will light up Red Hill next season and turn the Broncos into a genuine premiership contender.

“Reece will be outstanding for the Broncos,” Hodges said. “He is a hell of a player.

“He still has a lot to learn, but he has the work ethic to make it to the top, he wants to get better so I have no doubt at all he will be successful at the Broncos.

Reece Walsh returns to the Broncos in 2023. Picture NRL photos
Reece Walsh returns to the Broncos in 2023. Picture NRL photos

“He has matured a bit at the Warriors but he is only 19, so he has a lot more growth in him.”

Hodges said he has no bad blood with the Warriors and is considering returning to coaching after fielding assistant offers from two NRL rivals.

“I see this as an opportunity to give myself a fresh start,” he said. “I’m at the point in my life where I want to re-assess. I might get back into coaching, it’s what I know, but I am open to anything inside or outside of footy.

“The Warriors job was a great experience. It hasn’t made me any less qualified, it has given me a new perspective on the business side of rugby league.

“But I miss coaching and being around a group of guys. The longer you work in administration, the further away from the team you move.

“It’s the players I love and the day-to-day interactions with them and helping them grow and develop.”

* * * * *

DEVIL IN THE DETAIL

Brisbane’s Hostplus Cup clubs have been busy naming new coaches for 2023.

Norths Devils have lured Mackay Cutters coach Dave Elliott on a two-year deal to replace premiership coach Rohan Smith, who was plucked mid-season by Leeds Rhinos.

Elliott has developed a quality reputation at the Cutters and in various roles with the Townsville Blackhawks. He will become the Devils’ 42nd head coach on a list including the likes of Bob Bax, Clive Churchill, Graham Lowe, Mark Murray and Tom Raudonikis.

Wynnum Manly this week announced the signing of former Dragons assistant coach Mathew Head as coach for next season while Souths appointed Karmichael Hunt.

Brisbane Tigers are also in the market for a new coach, completing a clean sweep of changes among the Brisbane teams.

Originally published as Sport Confidential: Jayden Campbell facing squeeze at Titans, NRL clubs chase Scott Drinkwater