NRL 2021: Reed Mahoney, Clint Gutherson, Junior Paulo, contract, Parramatta Eels, Brandon Smith, Dolphins, Titans, Storm, Curtis Scott

Brandon Smith delivered a classic one-liner about what he was doing when cameras caught him meeting with a rival NRL club.

The Eels have reportedly backflipped on their contract call deadline for star trio Reed Mahoney, Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo.

Elsewhere, Brandon Smith’s Queensland tour has given a big hint on what his next move is, while Curtis Scott’s NRL lifeline could be in danger amid fresh allegations.

Read on for the latest NRL Transfer Whispers.

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‘Playing the pokies’: Smith’s big call looms

Brandon Smith’s Queensland tour wrapped up on Thursday with a meeting with Dolphins officials — but he has one more club to meet with before making a decision.

The Storm star is the hottest name on the market for 2023 and as expected, has had no shortage of suitors.

Smith’s manager revealed that he received four offers on November 1 — the date rivals could officially negotiate with him.

Amongst those offers was interest from the Titans, Cowboys and Dolphins.

The 25-year-old was spotted in Townsville earlier this month — although it’s been claimed that was just a holiday.

Then this week he was photographed shaking hands with Titans officials and on Thursday he toured the Dolphins’ facilities.

When asked about his meeting by Channel 9, who were there with cameras to film the visit, Smith replied: “What meeting? I was just in there playing the pokies.”

Dolphins CEO Terry Reader told Nine: “Brandon’s a quality player and we loved having him here today, showing him around the facility,”

News Corp reports the Titans have tabled the Kiwi Test hooker a three-year deal worth $800,000 a season, while the Dolphins are prepared to offer him upwards of $850,000.

Meanwhile, The Australian’s Brent Read believes Smith’s tour of the three Queensland clubs all but confirms he won’t be at the Storm in 2023. It could effectively rule out the Roosters too, however he is set to meet with them over the coming days as the club prepares a pitch to lure the world class No. 9 to the club.

The Storm had tabled a three-year offer at around $730,000-per season, but given they’ve got Harry Grant, there would be no guarantees Smith would be the starting hooker — the position he wants to exclusively play.

“The Dolphins were the final meeting. Now that’s out of the way he can sit down with his agent and make a final call,” Read told Triple M.

“But it’s funny, you talk to them and they’re all really confident. I don’t know what that means, whether Brandon’s keeping his cards close to his chest or they’ve had the wool pulled over his eyes but the Cowboys, Titans and Dolphins are confident they are going to get Brandon Smith.

“So there’s going to be some pretty disappointed club officials in the next few days when Brandon makes his decision.

“I don’t think (he’ll stay with the Storm). I haven’t spoken to Melbourne lately, they were hopeful but I think there’s acknowledgment now that he won’t be staying in Melbourne.

“The Roosters were the other club that was keen on Brandon but I think his mother was with him when he had that meeting at the Gold Coast. His family are now living up in southeast Queensland so I think he wants to be close to them.

“I think there’s an acknowledgment by the Roosters and Melbourne that it just won’t be happening.”

However, the latest News Corp report claims Smith will meet with the Roosters on his way back to Melbourne. They won’t be able to offer the same money as the Titans or Dolphins, but can offer the prospect of playing for premierships.

Eels give superstar trio more time

The Eels have softened their hard line stance on Reed Mahoney, Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo as the trio work through contract talk for 2023.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the club has tabled all three an extension and after growing frustrated with the drawn out negotiations put forward a take-it or leave-it ultimatum.

The ultimatum originally meant Mahoney, Gutherson and Paulo — who are all managed by Sam Ayoub — had until the end of Friday to make a call on their future.

However, according to the Herald, the Eels have backed down and decided to scrap the deadline.

Gutherson’s extension had dominated headlines until earlier this week when Mahoney was spotted dining with Bulldogs officials at Canterbury Leagues Club.

The Herald reported that the Eels had tabled a three-year deal worth $450,000-per season to Mahoney, but the Bulldogs blew them out of the water with a four-year $650,000-per season verbal offer.

The Bulldogs’ football general manager, Phil Gould, denied that any formal offer was made however did say that the club is “keen” on the 23-year-old hooker.

Gutherson and the club have been negotiating since May — although talks were put on hold at one point so he could focus on playing finals. The skipper is said to have a two-year extension on the table worth around $750,000 to $800,000 a year, however he reportedly wants a third year, which is why no agreement has been made yet.

Paulo is in line for a pay rise as his four-year deal comes to an end in 2022. The New South Wales representative is said to be on the Dolphins’ radar, while News Corp journalist Brent Read told Triple M that the 27-year-old is “exploring his options” and will meet with other clubs.

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Originally published as Brandon Smith says he was ‘just playing the pokies’ when quizzed about rival meeting

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