Giant step: Cowboys look to Manu as O'Donnell heads to Huddersfield
GLENN JACKSONJuly 17, 2010
North Queensland forward Luke O'Donnell has become the latest representative player to head to the English Super League, writes Glenn Jackson.
NORTH QUEENSLAND are set to target Melbourne's international back-rower Sika Manu after NSW representative Luke O'Donnell agreed to become the latest NRL star to play in the Super League.
O'Donnell has agreed to a four-year deal with English club Huddersfield, rejecting offers from the Cowboys as well as Newcastle and Cronulla. But O'Donnell's manager Wayne Beavis rejected the assertion his client would leave the country because of his poor record at the judiciary.
The Cowboys' offer for O'Donnell was believed to be well short of his current deal, worth about $300,000 a season, primarily because he has spent much of the past four seasons on the sidelines through injuries and suspension.
It is believed O'Donnell has been frustrated at his failure to secure representative jumpers because of his suspensions, and he was ruled out of the final State of Origin after being banned over a lifting tackle in game two.
Officials from one of the clubs that targeted O'Donnell suggested he had decided to quit the NRL because of his treatment by the match review committee and the judiciary.
But Beavis said: ''It's a decision based on his football, based on his remuneration. He's disappointed he's leaving the NRL, but he sees this as a new challenge. He's sad he's leaving. He enjoyed his time at the Cowboys - they were good to him and he was good to them. At the end of the day, he's secured a four-year deal, and it's good money.''
The loss is another part of a rebuilding phase at the Cowboys. The club has secured its marquee player in halfback Johnathan Thurston, but will be without O'Donnell as well as fellow experienced forward Carl Webb next season.
The Cowboys had targeted a number of Storm forwards, including Adam Blair and Kevin Proctor, but officials believe they are likely to remain in Melbourne, even after the true extent of the club's cap rorting was announced this week.
The Cowboys are believed to be keen on Manu, who has had his own injury worries but still has a promising future. Cowboys chief executive Peter Parr would not comment on the club's interest in other players, but admitted he had planned to be without O'Donnell, given the money he was willing to offer and that being thrown at him by Nathan Brown's English club.
''We always knew it was going to be a tough assignment to keep him, given where we were and what's going on overseas,'' Parr said.
''He told us his preferred option was to never play against the Cowboys. We thought we might have been half a chance, but it wasn't to be.''
In England, Tom Briscoe produced a stunning 80th-minute tackle to earn Hull dramatic derby win over bitter rivals Hull KR in a fascinating and ferocious 210th meeting between the two at the KC Stadium.
After trailing 20-10 with 16 minutes to go, the Robins, looking to prevent their hosts from doing the double over them for the first time in the Super League era, gave themselves a fighting chance of nicking something with Liam Watts's 72nd-minute try. They then thought they had rescued at least a point after a stunning off-the-cuff move sent Peter Fox in at the corner with 41 seconds remaining - only for video replays to show Briscoe had dragged him in touch just in time. It was a remarkable end to a scintillating game that few had given Richard Agar's Hull a chance of winning if their abject 29-6 defeat at Wakefield last Saturday.