Bulk buy: Canterbury giant Sam Kasiano on the charge against the Gold Coast Titans. Photo: Getty Images
Cronulla are aiming to exact revenge on Canterbury for poaching Andrew Fifita by launching a retaliatory strike for Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano.
The news comes as David Fifita emerged as a contender to replace his suspended brother for the grudge match against the Bulldogs.
The Sharks are still reeling after losing established star Fifita and an emerging one, promising hooker Michael Lichaa, to Belmore at the end of the season. The twin strikes add spice to Monday's ANZ encounter, although Andrew Fifita won't be playing after accepting a two-match suspension for a shoulder charge on Gold Coast winger David Mead.
It's understood David Fifita, yet to make his NRL debut, and former Manly prop Tim Robinson are being considered to fill the void.
Andrew Fifita became the highest-paid front-rower in history when he signed a four-year deal believed to be worth about $3.2 million. The Sharks are on the hunt for a replacement, although there are few on the open market. They have money to spend and have expressed interest in Kasiano. The New Zealand international is contracted until the end of 2015 but the Bulldogs are likely to have to shift players after a spate of signings and re-signings.
"Sam Kasiano would be the biggest-name prop off contract if he was to be released by Canterbury," said his agent, Mario Tartak.
"There has already been plenty of interest; my phone has been running hot in recent days."
Kasiano, who opted to represent New Zealand despite overtures to play for the Maroons, has not asked for a release, nor have Canterbury asked him to explore his options. However, the parties are likely to discuss his place in the roster next week.
Newcastle have also expressed interest in Kasiano, while South Sydney – one of the suitors who missed out on Fifita as a replacement for Sam Burgess – could also be an option. However, the Sharks are desperate for grunt up front after losing Ben Ross, Mark Taufua, Jayson Bukuya and Jon Green in the off-season. Bryce Gibbs is also likely to retire at the of the year.
Should they snare Kasiano, the Sharks would be replacing last year's Dally M prop of the year with the recipient of the award the previous season. Kasiano is injured but is expected to return within a fortnight.
As well as securing the services of Fifita and Lichaa, the blue-and-whites are poised to announce contract extensions for Michael Ennis, James Graham and Josh Morris, while centre Tim Lafai was recently locked away long term.
With a pack also boasting Greg Eastwood, Frank Pritchard, Aiden Tolman, Tony Williams, Dave Klemmer, Dale Finucane and Josh Jackson in the engine room, it will be impossible to keep them all under the salary cap. Kasiano is the one most likely to go, while Lloyd Perrett could also be squeezed out. Perrett, the younger brother of Kiwi international Sam, is highly regarded but may not be offered an extension when he comes off contract at season's end. Sam said he would hold no grudges if Lloyd wasn't retained.
“Lloyd is a great talent,” Sam Perrett said. “He is a young fella coming through. He is working hard. He has the ability and the intelligence and skills to get his opportunity wherever it may be.
“Hopefully it’ll be here but I have no doubt in his ability. I think he is well capable of playing first grade some time shortly. Just seeing him progress and develop as a person and a football player, he’d have no dramas.”