McLean to make call on Cowboys future
North Queensland are confident of tying up Kangaroos prop Jordan McLean following revelations the Cowboys' vice-captain is a free agent for 2021.
The Sunday Mail can reveal McLean is free to leave Townsville at the end of the year due to a clause in his contract.
McLean has until Round 1 of the upcoming NRL season to activate or reject a two-year option to remain at North Queensland.
If McLean opts to stay at the Cowboys, he will be tied to the club until the end of the 2022 season.
But if he chooses to reject the option he will be free to sign with a rival NRL club from next year, making him one of the game's hottest free agents.
Cowboys football boss Peter Parr said the club was confident McLean would choose to remain at North Queensland.
"We're confident he's going to stay," he said. "He has an option in his favour and he has to decide before the first round.
"He will tell us whether he's taking the option up for the two years or he's not taking it up."
McLean, 28, arrived at the Cowboys from Melbourne ahead of the 2018 season as one of the NRL's premier props.
He played eight Tests for the Kangaroos in 2017-18, but his debut season for the Cowboys was marred by a serious foot injury which limited him to 10 NRL appearances.
McLean bounced back last year, playing all but two of North Queensland's 24 matches after being named Michael Morgan's vice-captain.
The 118kg front rower will play an integral role in North Queensland's engine room this year following the retirement of Cowboys stalwarts Matt Scott and Scott Bolton.
Parr said the Cowboys were hoping McLean could help lead them out of the NRL cellar in 2020 following finishes of 13th and 14th in the past two seasons.
"He had some disruptions in the first year but his second year was good, he got our players' player award and played nearly all the games," Parr said.
"We believe his leadership has developed nicely over the last 12 months.
"One of the reasons we agreed to the deal we did was because we thought he could not only take over from Matt Scott but also help fill the leadership void Matt's retirement would bring.
"He's coming to an age where most front rowers play their best football. He's developed into a really good leader for us and we expect him to even get better in that area."