Luke Thompson looks ready for the step up to the NRL. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Luke Thompson looks ready for the step up to the NRL. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Canterbury favoured to sign 'best prop in the world'

THE Canterbury Bulldogs have emerged as outright favourites to land the prized signature of the Englishman rated the "best prop in the world".

In what would be a massive boost for the rebuilding Bulldogs, St Helens' hard man, Luke Thompson, is expected to make an announcement on his future in the coming days.

Gold Coast is the other club in the chase, and  the New Zealand Warriors have come in late and hard with a big offer.

Initially 11 NRL clubs expressed some interest in signing Thompson for the 2021 season but it is now down to three with the Bulldogs said to be leading the charge.

In the Titans' favour is that Thompson also has a close connection with new coach Justin Holbrook from their time together at St Helens.

The talk is Thompson is set to earn in the vicinity of $700,000 a season, which is very lucrative but understandable given teammate Alex Walmsley's huge rap for Thompson last year.

Thompson with Titans coach Justin Holbrook after winning the Super League grand final last year. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Thompson with Titans coach Justin Holbrook after winning the Super League grand final last year. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Walmsley declared that Thompson was the world's best prop following his man-of-the match performance in the Super League grand final.

Thompson is only 24 but has already made more than 150 Super League appearances for St Helens.

He has also earned tremendous respect among his English Test teammates, with the Canberra Raiders' Pommy connection in particular trying their hardest to get him to the Raiders.

In the end, Canberra simply didn't have the salary cap space to match the offers elsewhere.

Thompson would be a huge acquisition for the Bulldogs, who are trying to fight their way back into finals contention.

Although Thompson is contracted to St Helens for the 2020 Super League season, there has been some talk he may come to Australia early.

St Helens has stated categorically that it won't let that happen, but that could possibly change if an NRL club were willing to cough up a significant transfer fee.

Although it is unlikely to eventuate regardless, it is worth noting that any money paid for a transfer fee is not included in the NRL salary cap.

Dean Pay appears to have the Bulldogs on the up again. Photo: Brett Costello
Dean Pay appears to have the Bulldogs on the up again. Photo: Brett Costello

While the Bulldogs have had some tough recent years following Des Hasler's departure, they showed some strong signs of improvement at the back end of last season, finishing as one of the comp's form sides with seven wins from their last 10 games.

Dean Pay is really building some commitment and resilience in what is still the NRL's youngest and least experienced roster, but adding a front rower of Thompson's reputation is exactly the type of addition that could help attract more quality players.

They also added Kiwi international Dallin Watene-Zelezniak last year and have signed Melbourne forward Joe Stimson, Dean Britt from Souths and Sione Katoa from Penrith for 2020.

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