Vagana Given Leave

Kiwis centre Nigel Vagana's days with the Bulldogs look to be numbered as the National Rugby League club has given the try-scoring centre permission to negotiate with rival clubs.

In an unusual twist to the star's drawn-out contract negotiations, the Bulldogs management gave the go-ahead to negotiations instead of Vagana having to wait for the June 30 anti-tampering deadline to end.

The Bulldogs re-signed centre Ben Harris on Monday for a further three years, fuelling speculation they may be prepared to shed either Vagana or his club and Kiwis' midfield partner Willie Talau, to fit under the A$3.25 million ($3.67 million) salary cap.

Vagana, the NRL's leading try-scorer last season, could return to England if he cannot formalise a new three-year deal. He played at Warrington in 1997 in between stints with the Auckland Warriors and indicated on the Kiwis tour of Great Britain last year that he would like to end out his rugby league career in the Super League.

Vagana submitted a list of requirements for his next Bulldogs contract - including a guaranteed post-football job at the club - but management could not accommodate his demands.

His representatives have been in touch with Wigan and current English champions St Helens. NRL strugglers Cronulla are also understood to be interested.

Vagana's manager, Gavin Orr, remained confident,however, that a new deal with the Bulldogs could be settled today.

In England, St Helens coach Ian Millward is playing down reports the Super League club wants to sign Talau.

Talau is off contract with the Bulldogs at the end of the season, but chief executive Steve Mortimer has indicated he would sit down with the experienced Talau this week to hold further talks.

"I haven't decided who will be staying and leaving from my present squad," Millward said.

"Our front row has to be a priority and we have a whole lot of thinking to do before we sign anyone."

Talau and Vagana have played more than 200 NRL games between them, including more than 150 for the Bulldogs.

They have appeared in 29 test matches for the Kiwis.

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