While Cronulla and Souths are still the favourites to snag Maitua, the Storm are juggling salary cap issues to fit the talented utility in. North Queensland Cowboys are the unknown quantity with some corners saying they have pulled out of the race and others saying they are still a chance and keeping their moves close to their chest.
Maitua is believed to be chasing a short term possibly single year deal and to link with a leading club and give him a shot at his representative goals. A successful year could then land Maitua big money and the prized rep jerseys on offer.
Maitua’s manager Sam Ayoub said that two of the four clubs had made offers, the Sharks a one-year offer and Souths weighing in with a three-year deal.
Maitua has apparently put to bed, the idea of playing in England for now.
“He’ll be playing somewhere in the NRL in 2009, at this stage it’s more about him weighing up what’s going to be best for him,” Ayoub said.
“It’s one of those decisions that Reni’s struggling with at the moment in the sense he wants to make the right one.
“The intention is to make a decision (this week), he wants to be training with a team when they resume in the New Year.
“At this stage we’re leaning towards a one-year option because Reni’s got his heart set on having a really big year and it would be in his best interests.”
The Storm have emerged as the latest contenders, but only if they can find salary-cap room.
Melbourne after losing prominent scrum forwards Michael Crocker and Jeremy Smith, also lost big man Antonio Kaufusi – and would naturally benefit from the skill of Maitua at a potential bargain price.
The Storm may need to push another player out to allow Maitua in and it’s understood are prepared to offload flanker Steve Turner.
“We haven’t had a financial offer from them at this stage, but they’ve spoken to us two or three times,” Ayoub said of Melbourne.
“They haven’t been in a position to make a financial offer just yet, but they tell us that they’re working on making some funds available.”
Storm official Frank Ponissi didn’t deny they were seriously looking at Maitua.
“Down the track, if something did happen with our salary cap we would look at it because he’s an excellent player,” said Ponissi.
“After losing a few back-rowers he’d be a good acquisition for us, but at this point in time we couldn’t entertain it. The big thing would be what (money) he’d be prepared to come for, so that’s why it would be difficult for it to happen. Never say never, but it would be highly unlikely.”