THEY were prepared to go to court to stop him leaving, but now it appears NSW winger Steve Turner’s days in Melbourne are numbered.
Turner, who famously agreed to join the Gold Coast for the 2007 season before turning his back on the Titans and signing a new deal with Melbourne, is believed to have been shopped around to other NRL clubs as Melbourne battle salary-cap issues.
Turner is off contract at the end of 2009 but has even been offered to at least one club for next season, much to the mirth of Titans boss Michael Searle.
"It’s a surprising development," said Searle, who admitted he had heard the rumours about Turner. "But it’s not for us to comment on the Storm’s affairs. I think it’s probably one of those salary-cap pressures."
Asked if the Titans, who eventually agreed to a swap with Smith Samau and Daniel Isaac, would now have any interest in Turner – who made his State of Origin debut this year – Searle said bluntly: "The door’s firmly closed here. That would be a very interesting sales pitch."
The Bulldogs are understood to have been offered Turner for next season and, while that approach was knocked back, the club would still consider him again for 2010, depending on how fullback Luke Patten returns from his back injury and the form of the precocious Ben Barba.
Melbourne have been stung by back-ended contracts and representative bonuses, and are also believed to be attempting to offload centre Will Chambers, among others.
The Storm are facing a battle to keep captain Cam Smith, who, coincidentally, has been targeted by the Titans, and will no doubt be attempting to ensure they have enough funds available to be in a position to secure him, even though his closeness to his coach Craig Bellamy will count significantly. The club also has representative second-rower Ryan Hoffman off contract at the end of next season.
Souths chief executive Shane Richardson, who pursued Turner relentlessly before he initially signed with Melbourne, said the club would not be in a position to make the 24-year-old an offer.