SYDNEY ROOSTERS expect to reach an agreement with Penrith's Michael Jennings within the week, with club insiders saying if negotiations are not finalised by then, the deal will probably not go ahead at all.
The Roosters are keen to secure the NSW Origin centre for this season but do not want to get involved in a lengthy tug-of-war with his management. Fairfax Media understands any deal would need to be reached within the next week.
With trial matches to start next month, the Roosters don't want any distractions and would like Jennings training with the side before they play their first pre-season game.
Penrith general manager Phil Gould has given his assurance that he will release Jennings from the final three years of his contract - but does not want to commit the Panthers to any shortfall in the two contracts. If the Roosters do pull out of negotiations, they wouldn't be the first club to show interest in Jennings then turn away from the 24-year-old.
St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers were both keen to sign him in the off-season but negotiations eventually broke down.
More than half a dozen clubs have been interested in the centre but the $600,000 salary he picks up at Penrith has turned off rival clubs.
Fairfax Media reported on Monday that the Roosters wouldn't match the $1.8 million contract for three seasons, but were considering offering a four-year deal worth up to $2million. South Sydney have also been interested and have been talking to his management team since before Christmas. Jennings has endured his fair share of drama at his junior club, including being handed a fine after breaking the club's no-alcohol policy for injured players on Anzac Day last year.
He let his football do the talking in a dynamic State of Origin campaign under Ricky Stuart last year, but critics say his best performances have been too few and far between at the Panthers.
Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan said it was up to Penrith to agree to a release before his club could make a move. ''The issue from our understanding lies with the player and his management and the Penrith Panthers,'' he said.
While last month's decision to release B.J.Leilua - who has joined Newcastle - has freed up salary cap space, Canavan admitted the Roosters would not be in a position to accommodate Jennings without an increase to the salary cap. That hike is yet to be signed off on by the NRL, though clubs are working to a figure of $5.8 million for this year.
While Jennings remains in limbo, the Roosters locked up the future of back-rower Boyd Cordner through to the end of the 2016 season. Cordner established himself as an NRL regular last year.
''Boyd has been part of our commitment to develop our young players over the past few years,'' Roosters recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan said. ''To ensure that we have him here for a number of years is a major coup for our club and a major vote of confidence in where we are heading.''
Meanwhile, Newcastle have turned to a familiar face in a bid to add some depth to their outside backs, signing former Knight Anthony Quinn.
Quinn, 29, who played 103 games with the Knights from 2002 until 2006 before linking with Melbourne, has agreed to a one-year deal.