Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
It is almost an insult to call North Queensland Cowboys forward Jeremiah Nanai a backup option but it seems one club sees him that way.
Nanai is still only a teenager but has already played for the Queensland State of Origin side and represented Australia, winning his first Origin series and the Rugby League World Cup this year.
He was also an integral part of the Cowboys deep run into the finals as they suffered a heartbreaking defeat against the Parramatta Eels in the preliminary final.
Any club would be lucky to have a player of Nanai’s talent with the 19-year-old not even in his prime.
The second rower is currently eligible to negotiate with rival clubs with one Sydney-based team believed to have offered him a multimillion-dollar deal; however, the Canberra Raiders are reportedly viewing Nanai as a backup option if they miss out on signing David Fifita from the Gold Coast Titans according to The Daily Telegraph’s Phil “Buzz” Rothfield.
“The Canberra Raiders have a back-up plan in case they miss out on Gold Coast Titans forward David Fifita, who they are chasing with a $2.7 million three-year deal,” said Rothfield.
“If Fifita decides to stay on the Gold Coast, the Raiders will turn their attention to Kangaroos and Cowboys edge forward Jeremiah Nanai who is coming off contract in Townsville.”
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— BUZZ ROTHFIELD (@BuzzRothfield) December 10, 2022
Fifita’s time at the Titans has been a gargantuan letdown thus far with the 22-year-old underperforming whilst being paid over one million dollars per season by the club.
He has shown glimpses of his past dominance on the Gold Coast but has failed to consistently perform and will now be playing for a contract in 2023 unless he can secure his future this offseason.
The only fathomable reason the Raiders would be actively pursuing Fifita over Nanai is to spend less.
Both players will be signing contracts around the one million dollar range per season for 2024 and beyond but at this point Nanai has to be considered a hotter commodity that will cost more than Fifita.
Other than money there is no reason why Nanai should not be Canberra’s primary target and they could be wasting valuable time by waiting to see how their negotiations with Fifita end up