North Queensland are poised to keep prodigious centre Murray Taulagi away from a trio of prying Sydney clubs after a breakout season in the NRL.
Taulagi is understood to have agreed to terms on a two-year deal for 2022 and 2023, while also being handed an upgrade for the rest of this season.
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The New Zealand-born centre, who represented Queensland under 20s at Origin level, has 10 tries – the most of any Cowboy – and averages 114m and three tackle busts across 16 games this season.
Usually deployed as a winger, Taulagi got a shot in his preferred position against the Storm and held his own in their narrow loss on Friday.
Taulagi had interest on the table from Souths, Parramatta and Cronulla but opted to stay working under Todd Payten.
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The Cowboys were offered the services of English twins Innes and Louis Senior, who are contracted to Huddersfield, but any move now appears unlikely for next year with Taulagi now set to re-sign.
The Cowboys already have Peta Hiku joining the likes of Taulagi, Kyle Feldt, Valentine Holmes, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Connelly Lemuelu and Kane Bradley, on the books for 2022.
There is healthy competition for places in the Payten’s backline next season but how they all fit together is a different question in the wake of Taulagi’s decision to stay in Townsville.
Crucially, the Cowboys have kicked off discussions with Tabuai-Fidow’s camp over an extension before he comes off contract.
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‘The Hammer’ made his State of Origin debut this season and has been forced to play centre this year with Holmes the preferred No. 1, while there are still question marks over the latter’s ability to play at fullback.
An experienced forward is perhaps the most pressing concern for the Cowboys but after missing out on the signatures of Dale Finucane and Kurt Capewell, they are set to hold their nerve in the market before making any further decisions for 2022.
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