NRL 2020: Tyson Frizell, Newcastle Knights set to sign St George Illawarra Dragons star
The Knights are poised to lure Dragons star Tyson Frizell to the Hunter on a three-year deal in a major boost despite the coronavirus pandemic putting all NRL contract registrations on hold.
NRL.com understands Frizell has accepted Newcastle's offer, believed to be near $2 million from 2021, despite the uncertainty around when the competition returns and each team's salary cap.
Neither the Knights or Dragons have made an official comment on Frizell's future.
It is understood Frizell made the decision on his future last week before the competition was suspended, but amid the chaos of COVID-19 was only able to tell Dragons hierarchy on Thursday.
The NRL has advised player agents and clubs that all new deals will be put on hold during the negotiations between the NRL and RLPA over salaries.
It is understood a change of scenery and a belief in Newcastle's direction under new coach Adam O'Brien have prompted Frizell's decision to move on from St George Illawarra.
The Dragons have been desperate to keep the Australian Test and Origin back-rower, upping their original three-year offer to match the Knights' deal first tabled in late January.
When Newcastle's bid first became public at the NRL Nines, Frizell, 28, told reporters the chance to win a premiership rather than his pay packet would dictate where he played next season.
"People know that I'm looking to win a premiership hopefully and play some good footy, play finals footy," he said last month.
"That's what we do it for. I don't do it to go chasing money, that's a nice part of it but if that's what driving us we're not going to be successful at all."
His expected exit is a hammer blow for the Dragons.
Paul McGregor's team already came into 2020 under the pump after last year's 15th-placed finish and they kicked off their campaign with back-to-back losses to Wests Tigers and Penrith before games were suspended.
O'Brien meanwhile has made no secret of wanting to beef up his back row with an elite edge runner.
With 14 Tests for Australia, another five for Wales and 11 NSW Origin appearances, Frizell ranks among the game's best forwards.
Frizell's expected arrival at the Knights in 2021 means he would line up alongside Blues teammates Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti, filling out O'Brien's back row alongside Lachlan Fitzgibbon and the recently re-signed Mitch Barnett.