Meanwhile, Manly deny signing a veteran forward for 2018.

And Brett Kimmorley takes aim at struggling Canterbury.

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GIRDS’ SHOCK TOP EIGHT CALL

Ryan Girdler believes the resurgent Panthers will miss the top eight.

After eight wins from their past 11 games, the Panthers have jumped up into eighth place on the NRL ladder, but it hasn’t convinced the club legend that they’ll be finals bound following round 26.

Dejected Panthers players after conceding a try. Picture: Mark Evans
Dejected Panthers players after conceding a try. Picture: Mark EvansSource: News Corp Australia

“I just don’t think they’re playing the right style of football at this time of the year,” Girdler told NRL Tonight.

“Their last four weeks, even though they’ve been winning, they been against some of the sides at the bottom end of the competition.

“Even though they’ve been winning it hasn’t been a convincing style of footy that they play. They’re running it on the last, they haven’t got a lot of the fundamentals in order at the moment.”

Girdler’s top eight prediction: Storm (42 points), Sharks (38), Broncos (36), Sea Eagles (36), Roosters (36), Eels (36), Cowboys (32), Raiders (30).

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MANLY DENY BIG SIGNING

Manly have emphatically denied they’re about to sign Cronulla prop Sam Tagataese.

According to the Manly Daily, the Sea Eagles were set to announce the signing of Tagataese on a two-year deal.

But in a statement issued on Thursday, the club said they’ve held no talks with the veteran forward or his management.

Sam Tagataese of the Sharks gets through a tackle.
Sam Tagataese of the Sharks gets through a tackle.Source: AAP

“Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have held no discussions whatsoever with Cronulla forward Sam Tagatese as incorrectly reported in the media today,” the statement read.

“Manly are completely mystified as to the source of the story. No media outlet contacted the Sea Eagles to check on the club’s position concerning the Sharks utility.

“If they had they would have been advised that no discussions with either the player or his manager have taken place.”

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NODDY RIPS DOGS

Former Canterbury player Brett Kimmorley is bewildered with recent reports the Bulldogs are trying to offload five of their big name players.

The Morris twins, James Graham, Moses Mbye and Greg Eastwood have been reportedly offered to rival clubs so the Bulldogs can fit in signings Kieran Foran and Aaron Woods for next season.

“I question at the moment how they can be so far over the cap with the current roster they do have. Their books must be so poorly balanced,” Kimmorley told NRL Tonight.

Bulldogs head coach Des Hasler.
Bulldogs head coach Des Hasler.Source: AAP

“The problem with the salary cap is when you get it wrong one year, you can’t just fix it next year. It takes you three of four years to get the salary cap right.

“If it’s right that they’re struggling to get Foran and Woods in, while selling everyone — it makes no sense to me paying for someone else to play for another club.

“That is just horrible business.”

Kimmorley also couldn’t understand by Des Hasler’s move to put Chase Stanley in the halves with Josh Reynolds.

“I just don’t know why they’re making that combination work,” Kimmorley said.

“Stanley played some five eighth as a junior, but last week when you watched the game, it purely didn’t work. They had no idea what they were doing.

“Reynolds brings excitement and energy, but there is no one creating any structure for the Dogs.

“It looks like they haven’t trained since November.”

DRAGONS EYE OFFLOADED STARS

The Dragons have joined Knights coach Nathan Brown in imploring the NRL to take a firm stance with clubs who have chosen to overspend next year’s projected salary cap and force them to release players, rather than pushing ahead with a “soft cap” or grandfather rule.

St George Illawarra still have four spots to fill on their 30-man roster and some wriggle room in the expected $9.2 million cap and are waiting to pounce if players are forced out of other clubs.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor.Source: Getty Images

“We’re under specific instructions from the NRL about what the salary cap is and all clubs are communicated that on a regular basis,” Millward told the Dragons’ website.

“So we’re complying with that. And obviously not all the other clubs are complying with that and that’s the reason they’ve got to unload some players.

“We want to make sure that is the situation because we’ve planned all along that’s the amount of money we have.

“For us, we’re in a really good position and we’ve got four spots to go.”

PAY WAR HEADED TO COURT?

The Rugby League Players Association has raised the stakes in the NRL pay war, threatening legal action and a boycott of the Dally Ms, according to The Australian’s senior sports writer, Brent Read.

According to the report, RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast has told NRL boss Todd Greenberg testing the salary cap’s legality in court is a realistic option if the two parties remain at loggerheads.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg.Source: AAP

A court battle is still likely a long way off but if an agreement can’t be reached, a legal test of the salary cap could potentially have wide-reaching ramifications for the professional sports landscape in Australia, with the AFL and A-League also operating under a salary cap.

A more pressing issue is the Dally Ms, with the RLPA reportedly considering a boycott as a measure to take if talks do not progress.

The Dally Ms were last cancelled due to industrial action in 2003, costing Panthers star Craig Gower the coveted award.

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