Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm are the last two clubs remaining in the battle to sign Benji Marshall, the former Wests Tigers star who announced that he would return to the NRL after pulling the plug on his nascent rugby union career with the Auckland Blues.
Marshall has already rejected approaches from North Queensland, Parramatta and St George Illawarra, as well as making it clear he is not interested in joining a Super League club.
The former Kiwi captain, who won the Rugby League World Golden Boot in 2010, returned to Auckland on Sunday after a three-day trip to Sydney where he spoke to Cronulla and Melbourne officials.
After losing stand-off Todd Carney to injury in Saturday’s 24-20 win over Penrith, the Sharks would like to sign Marshall quickly and they have prepared a formal offer.
But they face a battle with the Storm, who see Marshall as a potential stand-off replacement for English international Gareth Widdop, who joined St George Illawarra this season.