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Munster deal revealed, Bird’s future sealed

A resolution only occurred after the Dragons imposed a Monday deadline to get the deal done. News Corp has learnt the Dragons upped their offer to include the potential for a third season after Bird rejected the original two year proposal.Months of negotiations finally concluded late on Monday after the two parties locked in discussions. The news the club had long anticipated finally came through on Monday and is a welcome boost given their 42-6 loss to Melbourne on Sunday. It is understood the Dragons guaranteed two years for Bird worth about $1.1 million with a mutual option for Bird and the club to commit for a third season. It was enough for Bird to take up the offer.Watch every game of Magic Round this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >Bird had craved a guaranteed three year contract. However, the mutual option gives both parties a chance to extend the relationship into the 2025 season.The Dragons are expected to announce the deal this week once the final paperwork is lodged.The Tigers refused to commit themselves publicly to chasing Bird but at the very least held informal discussions about signing the premiership winner. They too were reluctant about agreeing to a third season. The Eels also dropped interest in pursuing Bird. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur met Bird in February but they withdrew from the chase last month.The Dolphins were keen on him but Bird was hesitant to return to Queensland despite his close relationship with Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.Bird has re-established himself as an NRL player at the Dragons in the past 12 months following an injury ravaged three year stint at the Broncos where he played just 17 games. He played 22 games last year and has started in all but one match for the club this year.Bird has played second-row, centre and five-eight already this season but is viewed as a back-rower.The Dragons still have space to move in their forward pack given Tariq Sims is off to Melbourne next year and Josh McGuire is off-contract at season’s end.Veteran Aaron Woods has a clause in his deal that if he plays a certain number of matches he is guaranteed a 2023 contract.Meanwhile, hooker Andrew McCullough has been cleared of a serious thumb injury. There were concerns McCullough may have broken his thumb during the loss to the Storm but scans on Monday confirmed no significant damage. It is expected he will take his place to play the Titans on Saturday.—Michael CarayannisSTORM MOVE FAST TO STAVE OFF MUNSTER POACHING RAID— Brent Read, Phil RothfieldMelbourne have stepped up their attempts to convince Cameron Munster to stay at the club by indicating they would be willing to throw in an extra year and more money to keep him out of the clutches of their rivals.The Storm initially tabled a two-year extension to their five-eighth at around the $1.5 million mark but it is understood further talks late last week culminated in the promise of an inflated three year deal, which would keep him at the club until the end of 2026.The Storm are unable to match the dollars on offer elsewhere, in particular at the Dolphins, but they hope that the promise of an extra year and a meatier pay packet will be enough to convince Munster to commit to the club.The Storm are also optimistic that they will have a decision on the future of coach Craig Bellamy in coming days, having given him extra time to decide whether he would commit to remain as head coach of the club for next season.Bellamy is a year-to-year proposition with the club as head coach, but will revert to coaching director role if he decides to step down from head coaching duties.Club powerbrokers are hopeful that the club’s brilliant start to the year – they have scored a record amount of points over the opening nine rounds – can convince Bellamy to stay for at least one more season in charge.At the heart of their fast start has been Munster, who is in career-best for the club. Munster is off contract with Melbourne at the end of next season and was initially offered a two-year extension by the club at a reduced rate.He and his manager Braith Anasta hesitated at the offer, which was well below his market value. However, talks have been ongoing and the Storm insist Melbourne is the best place for Munster from a personal and professional perspective.His form suggests as much. Munster has 10 try assists and eight line break assists through the opening nine rounds of the competition. Only Parramatta half Mitchell Moses has had more try assists while Cronulla duo Nicho Hynes and Siosifa Talakai are the only players to sit above Munster in terms of line break assists.The latest developments on Munster’s future come as the club prepares to renew their rivalry with Penrith on Saturday night at Magic Round in Brisbane, The Storm will head into that game without fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who failed to finish their big win over St George Illawarra due to knee and hamstring complaints.It is understood Papenhuyzen will miss at least two matches due to his hamstring, although Storm officials are quietly hopeful that he will be back in time to take his place against Manly in round 12.If he manages to make it back to take on the Sea Eagles, it would give Papenhuyzen one game to prove his worth to NSW coach Brad Fittler before the Blues name their squad for the opening game of the State of Origin series.Munster has no such concerns. He will be among the first picked by Queensland coach Billy Slater should he stay fit over the next three weeks. The 27-year-old has put a difficult off-season behind him to confirm his standing as one of the best players in the game and the Storm will need to fend off a host of rivals to keep him in purse beyond next year.The Dolphins aside, Munster has been linked with St George Illawarra and Canterbury in recent weeks. The Broncos have also been mentioned as prospective players for his services, but the Storm will have the final say.They have no desire to lose Munster and while their hands are tied to extent by the salary cap – they recently upgraded and extended Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes – they are working hard on piecing together a deal that shows respect for his standing in the game.

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