Wests Tigers, Jeremiah Nanai offer, Luciano Leilua, swap deal, North Queensland Cowboys

The Wests Tigers have made an audacious play designed to hit back at North Queensland’s poaching of Luciano Leilua by offering young gun teenager Jeremiah Nanai a $600,000 two-year deal for 2023 and 2024.

Nanai, 18, is regarded by good judges as one of the best emerging backrowers in the NRL and made his debut last season playing four games for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are continuing to monitor the Leilua situation at Wests Tigers with early reports suggesting the backrower may request an immediate release.

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Wests Tigers have so far refused this request but if coach Michael Maguire and director of football Tim Sheens were to land the signature of Nanai then the clubs would look to open negotiations about an immediate swap.

Tigers’ director of football Sheens confirmed to Fox Sports the club had made an offer for Nanai to move to the Concord-based club in 2023 and 2024.

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Since the arrival of Sheens the Tigers have landed the signature of Dally M back-rower of the year Isaiah Papali’i for 2023 and are currently in a race with the Canberra Raiders to sign Canterbury-Bankstown outside back Nick Cotric.

The Tigers are also deep in negotiations to try and extend the contract of rising front-rower Stefano Utoikamanu as the club sets about overhauling its roster.


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Sheens has gone to great lengths to point out coach Maguire is still the figurehead of the club while the newly-arrived director of football is simply assisting Wests Tigers in solving the stigma of being a club players try to avoid joining.

Whereas Canterbury-Bankstown general manager of football Phil Gould has immediately made some major plays in the NRL’s open market the Tigers are aiming for a more measured rebuild.

Premiers Penrith are a recent example of a club who were widely regarded as being no threat to the competition before emerging as one of the Sydney power clubs in the last two seasons.

If anyone knows about rebuilding clubs and overhauling rosters it is four-time premiership-winner Sheens.

If there’s an area the Tigers were in need of a major overhaul it was the club’s recruitment and retention with the experienced Warren McDonnell also returning to Concord to help fix the mess.

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Sheens and McDonnell were part of the Wests Tigers’ one and only premiership in 2005 when the pair utilised an outstanding crop of local juniors headed by Robbie Farah, Brett Hodgson, Dene Halatau, Bryce Gibbs and Liam Fulton.

Wests Tigers’ favourite son Benji Marshall was also integral and has since returned to Concord this year after a bitter fallout saw him play a farewell season with South Sydney in 2021.

Farah and fellow 2005 grand final hero Pat Richards are now working with the Tigers NRL side while Marshall is working in pathways and as a Wests Tigers ambassador.

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