transfer whispers, Kalyn Ponga, Dolphins, Newcastle Knights, Kelma Tuilagi, Wests Tigers, Manly Sea Eagles, Mitchell Pearce NRL return, North Queensland Cowboys, Marty Taupau

The Dolphins ‘haven’t given up’ on signing a particular marquee player, while Manly have poached an up-and-coming Tigers forward.

Still on Manly, Marty Taupau could be on his way to North Queensland earlier rather than later.

And veteran halfback Mitchell Pearce has refused to close the door on a return to the NRL.

Read on for the latest NRL Transfer Whispers.

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PONGA STILL ON DOLPHINS’ HIT LIST

Wayne Bennett and the Dolphins are still keeping a close eye on Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga, according to NewsCorp reporter Dean Ritchie.

Ponga is signed to the Knights until the end of 2024 but he has an option in his favor for the final two seasons — and doesn’t have a decision deadline.

It looked almost certain that the 23-year-old would take up those options after his dad, who is also his manager, revealed how much of an impact Andrew Johns is having on Ponga.

However, Ritchie toldSky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfastthat the Dolphins “haven’t given up” on luring the State of Origin fullback to Redcliffe.

“I checked around yesterday with some well-connected people at the Dolphins and they haven’t given up,” he said.

“There was a theory that Kalyn Ponga will definitely stay (at Newcastle) — I think he will stay — but certainly in the eyes of the Dolphins until he signs, they will keep on punching.

“How Newcastle fare this year is another indicator. If they make the finals that would make it more attractive to Kalyn.”

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MANLY PICK UP PROMISING TIGER

The Sea Eagles have swooped in and picked up an up-and-coming forward from the Wests Tigers.

Kelma Tuilagi confirmed to NewsCorpthat he will depart the club at the end of the season to take up a three-year deal with Manly.

The 23-year-old joined the Tigers last season after being part of the Storm set-up. The club developed him as a utility forward through New South Wales Cup feeder team the Magpies with the plan to use him off the bench in first grade.

He made his debut off the bench in Round 20 last season and featured in the final five rounds.

Tuilagi beat Luke Garner to get his first start in the second row in the Tigers’ Round 1 loss to the Storm.

“Madge (Michael Maguire) fought to bring me here from Melbourne. I had tears in my eyes telling him,” Tuilagi told NewsCorp.

“We came back from the Christmas break but Madge had Covid, so I had to wait another week before telling him in person.

“Holding it in was so hard. I didn’t want to do it on the phone. I wanted to tell him face-to-face because he was confident I would stay.”

The Tigers reportedly offered Tuilagi a new two-year deal, but Manly’s extra year was what convinced him to sign.

The Sea Eagles are yet to announce the signing.

Kelma Tuilagi has signed with Manly. Picture: Richard DobsonSource: News Corp Australia

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EARLY EXIT FOR TAUPAU?

Why wait?

Despite being linked with a move for Martin Taupau for the 2023 season, it has been reported the North Queensland Cowboys could fast track the move.

That’s according to the Wide World of Sports, which claims North Queensland is ‘desperate’ for more help up front, with Taupau a potential option.

With Taupau and the Sea Eagles certain to split when his contract runs out at the end of 2022, and Manly reportedly could be open to allowing him an early exit.

Could Martin Taupau be on the move?Source: Getty Images

PEARCE REFUSES TO CLOSE NRL DOOR

Mitchell Pearce has refused to shut the door on a potential NRL return.

The 32-year-old made a shock move from the Knights to the Super League over the summer and is now playing for the Catalan Dragons.

Pearce played 309 NRL games across stints with the Roosters and Knights and is considered one of the best playmakers of the past decade.

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“Look, I haven’t shut the door on anything,” Pearce said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.

“If you had of asked me six months ago whether I’d be in the south of France I wouldn’t have even imagined that.

“At the moment I’m 100 per cent committed to the Dragons, I’ve got a two-year contract with a third-year option.

“I’m really hungry to win a trophy here with the boys, that’s where my focus is.

“But who knows? I’m not going to shut anything off completely.”

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