Jai Arrow is a man in demand.
Jai Arrow is a man in demand.

Titanic factor that could decide Arrow’s future

QUEENSLAND Origin ironman Jai Arrow has started contract talks with the Titans as several NRL rivals attempt to poach the inspirational forward from the Gold Coast.

Blindside can reveal Titans culture-and-performance chief Mal Meninga has begun moves to keep Arrow at the Gold Coast for the long haul at a time when the Maroons star is being targeted by a number of NRL clubs.

Arrow is off-contract at the end of next year, meaning he can start formal negotiations with NRL rivals from November 1. But Meninga and Titans' recruitment chief Ezra Howe are mindful of poaching attempts and are keen to secure Arrow for an extended period before the battle for his signature becomes a big-money bidding war.

By virtue of his outstanding form for the Titans and Queensland over the past 18 months, Arrow would be one of the most sought-after forwards on the open market with the ability to earn upwards of $700,000 a season.

But Arrow's preference is to stay and if the Titans can table a palatable deal, the former Bronco is prepared to accept slightly less to stay loyal to the club that gave him his big break in the NRL.

One critical factor in negotiations is the direction of the club and the future of coach Garth Brennan.

Jai Arrow has been the Titans best this season. Picture: Getty
Jai Arrow has been the Titans best this season. Picture: Getty

Arrow is a fan of Brennan but with Meninga set to table a formal report to the Titans board on Monday that could lead to the coach's demise, the Maroons tackling machine is keen for stability at Parkwood.

The Titans can't afford to lose Arrow. He is a future captain and a player the Titans can build their future around.

Garth Brennan is under serious pressure to keep his job. Picture: AAP
Garth Brennan is under serious pressure to keep his job. Picture: AAP

KEV DESERVES A RAP

Kevin Walters may have suffered his second consecutive series defeat in Origin III on Wednesday night but the Queensland coach's impact on the Maroons has been remarkable.

Since succeeding Mal Meninga was coach in 2016, Walters has blooded a staggering 21 debutants in the Queensland jumper in just 12 games, a phenomenal statistic underlining the rebuilding task 'Kevvie' has faced.

Meninga did a superb job winning nine of 10 series for Queensland but there is no doubt he was blessed to have a cluster of champions in Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Greg Inglis.

Kevin Walters should be proud of his Origin stint. Picture: AAP
Kevin Walters should be proud of his Origin stint. Picture: AAP

Walters had those greats in the twilight years before representative retirement, forcing him to preside over a succession plan that has introduced an entire squad to the pressures of Origin football.

Incredibly, Walters has blooded players in every position. It is another reason why Walters is reluctant to walk away from the Maroons amid reports linking him to the Gold Coast Titans job in 2020.

Here's a full team of players handed their maiden Maroon jumper by Walters:

1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Corey Oates, 3 Moses Mbye, 4 Justin O'Neill, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 Dylan Napa, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Joe Ofahengaue, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Jai Arrow. Bench: 14 Corey Norman, 15 David Fifita, 16 Tim Glasby, 17 Christian Welch. Other debutants: Anthony Milford, Jarrod Wallace, Coen Hess, Ethan Lowe.

Walters has blooded some serious talent. Picture: AAP
Walters has blooded some serious talent. Picture: AAP

"When I first got the job four years ago, I knew there would be a changing of the guard," Walters told Blindside.

"I've had a lot to do with a lot of these guys coming through the junior teams.

"We made some small steps last year but some even bigger ones this year with the group we have brought through."

ORIGIN REFS BACKED BY BOSS

NRL football operations chief Graham Annesley is set to give his unqualified backing to referees Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein in the wake of their controversial performance in Origin III.

In the ultimate game of two halves, the officials blew a staggering 12 penalties in the first half of the decider, only to put the whistle away for the second stanza, awarding just one penalty apiece to NSW and Queensland.

The contrast in standards sparked conspiracy theories that Annesley gave a half-time edict for Sutton and Klein to stop penalising the sides to ensure the traditional flow of Origin football.

But Blindside can reveal Annesley played no part in the drying up of penalties. The former Titans CEO will deliver his weekly address on Monday and Annesley praised the performance of Sutton and Klein, believing their hardline stance in the first half made the players behave themselves in the second.

"I think people are being a bit harsh," he said. "There were a lot of penalties in the first half but players got the message for the second half and that contributed to the spectacle."

SUPER COOPER'S MILESTONE

Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper celebrates a magical milestone when he plays his 300th NRL game on Sunday against the Roosters in Gosford. It has been an admirable show of longevity from Cooper, who struggled for impact in his formative years as a rookie at North Queensland in 2006 when he was labelled the next Gorden Tallis.

Cooper turns 34 next month but there is no stopping him. Blindside understands the former Maroons back-rower is keen to play on next season, but the Cowboys have yet to decide whether they will offer the premiership-winning back-rower a contract for 2020.

LINE IN THE SANDOR

Sandor Earl has earned plenty of admirers with his attitude in fighting back from his ban. Earl made his Melbourne Storm debut in round five and the Origin period gave him another chance to impress against the Dragons last week. Earl served a four-year ban for trafficking peptides in 2013 and instead of making excuses, the Sunshine Coast and Storm winger urged young rugby league players to learn from his mistakes.

"I've had unbelievable support from the Storm," Earl says.

"I'm proud to get back to this point of playing NRL and I wouldn't say there is a stigma around me anymore.

"I now don't cop anything from the fans that I haven't heard before. I've been through the worst of the worst.

Sandor Earl in action for Melbourne. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Sandor Earl in action for Melbourne. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"I made my bed and I had to lie in it. I did my time. I've moved on. Now I want to talk about me as a football player which I feel I've earned the right to do.

"Peptides were the unknown back then (in 2013).

"We live in a different world now. The education is out there. The understanding is out there.

"I would say to kids just be very careful, take responsibility for your actions and cross the Ts and dot the Is when checking supplements.

"I'd like to play as many NRL games as possible. I came to the Storm to be the best player I can be. I am behind two great wingers in Suli (Vunivalu) and Josh (Addo-Carr), but for me I'm training hard, working on my craft in the Queensland Cup and when a chance comes, I'll take it."

MORE GOLD RAIDS

The Broncos' raid on the Titans' ranks is not over yet. Blindside hears Brisbane recruitment chiefs are eyeing more young Gold Coasters after securing promising utility back Jesse Arthars to a two-year deal on Wednesday.

MAROONS NO.1 PROBLEM

Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans believes Queensland selectors are facing a massive selection headache next year between Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga for the fullback spot.

While Munster was a class act at five-eighth alongside Cherry-Evans in the opening two Origin games, his performance at fullback filling in for Ponga suggests the Storm ace is better suited in the No.1 jumper.

Since his teens, Munster was groomed to replace Billy Slater at Melbourne and has always preferred playing fullback and Cherry-Evans says Ponga has a fight on his hands in 2020.

"The way Cameron played, Queensland has a huge decision to make next year," he said.

"Cameron Munster took his game to another level in a losing side. I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions. It's great for Queensland that we have someone like Kalyn Ponga that didn't even play in the decider.

"He is one of the superstars of the NRL so 'Kevvie' (coach Kevin Walters) has a headache there choosing between him and Cameron for the fullback spot."

AT SIXES AND SEVENS

The Broncos' playmaking injury crisis has intensified with rookie Cory Paix facing a month on the sidelines after breaking down playing for the Queensland under-20s on Wednesday night.

Paix injured his ankle just 15 minutes into the junior Maroons' heavy 36-10 loss to NSW in the Origin III curtain-raiser and bravely battled on until half-time before pulling the pin for the second half.

Paix left ANZ Stadium on crutches with his badly-swollen ankle encased in a moon boot. With Brisbane having lost Tom Dearden and Sean O'Sullivan in recent weeks, coach Anthony Seibold can ill-afford to lose more troops. Paixwas strongly considered for an NRL debut for tomorrow night's clash against the Warriors but Seibold wanted the clever halfback or hooker to fulfil his commitments to the Queensland under-20s.

'I HAVE TO THANK WAYNE BENNETT'

Cowboys discard Ethan Lowe has paid tribute to Wayne Bennett for saving his career in the wake of his Queensland heroics in the Origin decider.

Lowe produced one of the great Origin debuts, making 46 tackles, five tackle-busts and kicking a pressure conversion to make it 20-all just 24 hours after being called in to replace injured back-rower Matt Gillett.

Ethan Lowe was outstanding for the Maroons. Picture: AAP
Ethan Lowe was outstanding for the Maroons. Picture: AAP

This time last year, Lowe was on the outer at the Cowboys playing Intrust Super Cup before Bennett swooped, bringing him to South Sydney this season.

"I have to thank Wayne Bennett for helping me get back," Lowe said. "I was playing reserve grade a year ago and Wayne gave me a chance at Souths and it's given me a new lease of life at the Rabbitohs.

"To wear the Queensland jersey is something special, it was the greatest day of my life."

RISING

ETHAN LOWE: What an Origin debut. Made the most tackle busts of any Queenslander (five) and topped the tackle count with 46. It was the greatest game of his career.

JAMES TEDESCO: Surely the NSW fullback is now the undisputed No.1 player in the NRL. Cameron Smith is a champion but Tedesco is 26 and could torment Queensland for another five years.

CAMERON MUNSTER: A superb performance in his Origin starting debut at fullback in the decider. Munster is a classy five-eighth but he looks even better roaming in the backfield.

BLAKE FERGUSON: Can be heart-attack material at times but his return to the NSW Origin arena has been tremendous. A superb athlete in full flight.

FALLING

MOSES MBYE: Gave his all in Origin III but his inability to play-the-ball quickly in the final minutes for Daly Cherry-Evans to take a field goal was a bad blunder. He was too busy arguing with the referee.

WILL CHAMBERS: His position will again come under the microscope after missing five tackles in the decider. The Maroons centre was superb in Game One but he trailed off in the final two games of the series.

BRADLEY STUBBS: Kevin Walters' Coach Whisperer claimed Queensland would win 3-0 and has been taking credit for a string of NRL premierships. His Science of Belief failed to deliver an Origin crown.

SHAUN JOHNSON: The Sharks playmaker needs to lift his game after a shocker in last week's loss to the Broncos. The former Warriors whiz has lost his mojo.



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