Hull Kingston Rovers are stepping up their pursuit of Wakefield Trinity star Jai Whitbread and are confident they can strike up a deal for the forward, Love Rugby League can reveal.
Whitbread, one of Wakefield’s most consistent performers across the last two seasons, remains under contract for next season despite Trinity’s relegation to the Championship.
Wakefield have decided against utilising the clause in his contract that would see him leave the club at the end of the season and become a free agent, and that decision now looks set to reap a reward.
Love Rugby League understands that interest has been building in Whitbread for a number of weeks and Rovers are confident they can win the race for his signature after discussing the possibility of paying a fee for the player in a move that would represent a significant coup for Willie Peters’ side for the 2024 season.
Wakefield have agreed to release the forward, with Whitbread making it clear he wished to explore options in Super League in the wake of Wakefield’s relegation.
Clubs including Leeds Rhinos had been linked with the former Leigh man, but that is wide of the mark. Instead it is Rovers who are now heading the race for Whitbread’s signature.
However, one stumbling block is that any move would create an issue for Rovers on their overseas quota next season. Whitbread’s arrival would take them over their quota allocation.
At present, Rovers have Peta Hiku, Tom Opacic, Tyrone May, Rhys Kennedy, Kane Linnett, Sauaso Sue and Matt Parcell under contract for 2024 – meaning that if Whitbread joins, someone has to leave.
Who that would be remains unclear, but Rovers have stepped up their interest in Whitbread in recent days and are hopeful they can get a deal done.