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NRL's Dogs and Tigers lead chase for Cronk

NZN 4/04/2017 Steve Zemek and Matt Encarnacion

Canterbury and Wests Tigers have become the first Sydney NRL clubs to throw their hats in the ring for Cooper Cronk's prized signature.

A bidding war beckons after the 33-year-old announced he was set to quit the Storm at the end of 2017 to be with his Syndey-based fiancee.

While he had yet to sound out potential Sydney clubs, he said he felt capable of playing on for another two years and he's set to be the hottest free agent on an already crowded player market.

Bulldogs coach Des Hasler and Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe on Tuesday expressed preliminary interest in the champion Australian and Queensland half.

Bookmaker TAB have installed the Dogs ($2.75) and Tigers ($4) as favourites to snare his signature while Cronulla ($5.50) and Parramatta ($7) also loom as contenders.

The Tigers' ability to squeeze Cronk into their roster would depend on the outcome of negotiations with young off-contract halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.

Pascoe's comments will have a flow-on effect on the pair's talks, with the club demonstrating they were ready to move on should one or both depart.

"We're always interested in talented players and Cooper's clearly a talented individual who's had great success at the Storm," Pascoe said.

Canterbury coach Des Hasler on Monday signed a two-year contract extension and will now turn his attention to his roster.

It's been speculated the club will undergo significant turnover in the off-season with five-eighth Josh Reynolds, misfiring hooker Michael Lichaa and fullback Will Hopoate all off contract.

Asked if the Dogs would go to the open market, Hasler said they would have an interest in any player of Cronk's calibre.

"Obviously you're talking about the big four (Wests Tigers stars Moses, Brooks, James Tedesco and Aaron Woods) and people like Cooper Cronk," Hasler said.

"Any recruitment and retention committee is going to look at those players but at the moment there have been no formal approaches."

The Dogs' interest in Cronk will likely depend on the fate of Reynolds, considered a fan favourite at Belmore.

Asked if Reynolds would be a part of their roster in 2018, Hasler said: "He's a big part part of what we're about here and negotiations are currently going on with his manager."

The Eels shape as a possible destination for Cronk with coach Brad Arthur shaping as a key to luring him to Sydney's west.

Arthur worked with Cronk during his time as Melbourne's assistant coach in 2010 and he implemented many of Storm coach Craig Bellamy's systems at the Eels.

The Eels are known to have plenty of room to move under the salary cap and have star winger Semi Radradra moving on at the conclusion of 2017.

A halves partnership of Cronk and Corey Norman would instantly transform them into a premiership force.

Defending premiers Cronulla could also make a play for Cronk, however they would have to significantly reshuffle their line up.

Their interest would depend on premiership-winning halfback Chad Townsend who is weighing up his future.

"My management is handling that at the moment," Townsend said.

"For me, I think it's important that I assess all my options and make the right decision."

It remains to be seen how much salary cap space the Sharks have left after Wade Graham and Valentine Holmes recently re-signed while Jack Bird is chasing a big money upgrade.

However, the possible retirements of Paul Gallen, Chris Heighington and Luke Lewis would give them room to negotiate.

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