- Oct 9, 2009
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Sharks throw out bait to lure off-contract Graham to coast
July 4, 2010
CRONULLA are looking to replace one of the oldest players in the NRL with one of the youngest, with moves to install boom Penrith playmaker Wade Graham as the replacement for retiring captain Trent Barrett.
The Sun-Herald can reveal that Graham, off contract at the end of the season, discussed the prospect of moving to the Shire in a meeting with incoming Sharks coach Shane Flanagan on Friday. Graham is one of the game's most promising playmakers, having made his NRL debut at the age of just 17. However, he's had limited opportunities in first grade this year after injuring his shoulder in a pre-season trial.
The 19-year-old will have a chance to impress prospective employers - the Cowboys have also expressed interest - when he takes on the high-flying Dragons tomorrow night.
Graham's preferred position is five-eighth but he'll wear the No.7 jersey at Jubilee Oval to cover for the loss of regular halfback Luke Walsh (hamstring).
Barrett, 32, will wait until the State of Origin series is completed before making a formal announcement on his future but is almost certain to call time on an illustrious career, despite opportunities to continue at Cronulla and Canberra. The Sharks, who missed out on the signature of Bulldogs-bound Eel Kris Keating, are desperate to replace the Blues skipper with quality halves signings and view Graham as a future representative player. It's understood Flanagan is prepared to table the Blacktown City junior a two-year deal.
The Sharks will have even more money to spend following the Herald's revelations yesterday that promising three-quarter Blake Ferguson will activate a clause in his contract which allows him to follow coach Ricky Stuart out of the Shire.
''While he's a Penrith boy through and through, he realises that if he stays he may have to play third fiddle behind Walsh and Luke Lewis,'' said Graham's agent, Mark Stewart.
''He certainly hasn't shut the door on the Panthers, but we're just looking to see what other opportunities may be out there.''
The Sun-Herald can also reveal that Penrith's initial attempts to extend the stay of form fullback Lachlan Coote have been unsuccessful. The Panthers have offered Coote, a genuine Dally M medal contender, an upgraded deal to ensure he remains at Penrith long-term. However, the 20-year-old knocked back the offer and is sure to be in hot demand when he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.