FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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Melbourne star Israel Folau may have priced himself out of a move to Sydney, with Bulldogs chairman George Peponis saying he wanted too much even for the cashed-up club.
Peponis confirmed the Dogs have made an offer to Folau, but says with the teenage Test star seeking up to $500,000 to move to Sydney, the Belmore outfit have turned their focus to re-signing their own international centre Willie Tonga.
The Dogs' declining interest in Folau leaves the 18-year-old with Melbourne and Brisbane as his best two options for next year.
"The sort of money being asked for Israel Folau is way out there at this stage, I think we'll concentrate on Willie," said Peponis.
"Willie is probably our next priority now after Andrew Ryan and Luke Patten signed on."
Peponis admits the Bulldogs are cashed up for the 2009 season and looking for star recruits, but says just because they have money to spend it doesn't mean they're interested in every player off contract this season.
He believes his club is being used as leverage in contract negotiations for players seeking more money at NRL clubs, much like the ARU during their recent raids on league ranks.
"Everyone knows we've got money now. Whenever a player comes up in the past rugby union is mentioned or Great Britain is mentioned because they use that as a leverage," he said.
"Now we've got the money we're the leverage."
Peponis says St George Illawarra Test centre Matt Cooper has never been discussed by the club, but North Queensland prop Carl Webb is top of the Bulldogs wish-list.
However, Peponis ruled out a direct swap for Tonga who is believed to be in the Cowboys' recruitment sights.
"He would be a good fit in here. We've lost two quality front rowers and he is a quality front rower," said Peponis.
"We've got a good player base. We're reasonably happy. We've got a lot of money freed up for 2009 but we're not going to rush in and buy someone for the sake of buying someone."