Cowboys target Broncos star
THE Cowboys are plotting another poaching raid on arch rivals the Broncos, targeting Kiwi Test star Jordan Kahu to fill their fullback void following the sacking of Ben Barba.
The Cowboys have identified Kahu as a frontline option to replace Barba and have begun negotiations with his management to broker an immediate release from the Broncos.
North Queensland pulled off a shock recruitment coup in November when they snared Brisbane hardman Josh McGuire, who was released by the Broncos to ease growing salary-cap pressures.
Now Kahu is in the Cowboys' sights as North Queensland hierarchy move quickly to solve the backfield conundrum created by Barba's termination following an off-field incident involving his partner a fortnight ago.
Off contract at season's end, Kahu will turn out for the Maori All Stars against their Indigenous rivals on Friday night at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
The Cowboys will watch the clash closely, hoping Kahu comes through unscathed, a scenario that would see them ramp up plans to formalise a one-year deal and poach their second Bronco in three months.
North Queensland have at least $300,000 to spend following the axing of Barba and are keen to have a fullback replacement - most likely Kahu - as soon as possible.
Cowboys officials declined to comment on Wednesday but it is understood they have been in talks with Kahu's agency in recent weeks as the Broncos continue to search for salary-cap relief.
Once rated the successor to Justin Hodges at the Broncos, Kahu has no issues at Red Hill, but the appeal of wearing the Cowboys No.1 jumper made famous by Matt Bowen is set to lure him to Townsville.
The New Zealand-born Kahu has previously outlined his desire to return to rugby union and he has interest from several Super Rugby clubs, but is happy to stay in the NRL if he can strike a deal with the Cowboys.
North Queensland have been linked with Souths flyer Alex Johnston but his price tag is too prohibitive.
Kahu is their preferred option as the Broncos are prepared to help subsidise his move north.
The 28-year-old is also a fine goalkicker and would be a handy successor to retired champion Johnathan Thurston, who kicked 923 goals for the Cowboys.
The versatile Kahu has scored 42 tries in 95 games for the Broncos, playing right wing against the Cowboys in the epic all-Queensland NRL grand final in 2015.
Hodges, who played alongside Kahu in the 2015 decider, said the utility would relish a fresh chapter in North Queensland.
"Jordan would be a great signing for the Cowboys," he said.
"He has always wanted to play fullback so with that spot available now it would be a good move for him.
"Working with Paul Green (Cowboys coach) would be a great opportunity - there's great players there to help him."