Addin Fonua-Blake has finally ended one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the off-season, with the Tongan international prop set to join the Cronulla Sharks for 2025.
He has agreed to a four-year deal estimated to be worth just shy of $1m per season and Cronulla have got their man without having to give up someone in return, with no players being announced as moving to Fonua-Blake’s current club, the New Zealand Warriors.
The player told teammates his decision at training today and the Sharks later posted on social media to celebrate his arrival.
It is a huge coup for Craig Fitzgibbon and the Sharks, who have barely made a signing in the last 18 months, but had a stated desire for an elite big man to help them break their finals hoodoo.
Conversely, the move is a second kick in the guts for former Sharkies coach Shane Flanagan at the Dragons, with his prime target opting to move to St George Illawarra’s biggest rivals on the same day that a key playmaker option, Tom Dearden, announced an extension with the Cowboys.
The Bulldogs and Dragons had been frontrunners for AFB’s signature, but after some swift salary cap moving, Cronulla emerged as a viable option.
They released Matt Moylan to the Super League and Connor Tracey to Canterbury to free up space.
Fonua-Blake had previously shocked the Warriors by asking for an immediate release to return to Sydney to be closer to his family, but the club were able to convince him to stay for one season more to allow adequate time to find a replacement.
The Dragons were thought to be frontrunners has they had salary cap available and Fonua-Blake grew up in the area, but at 28, the player has chosen the most likely option to deliver a Premiership late in his career.
The Tigers were also in the race, but pulled out to prioritise the signing of Penrith star Jarome Luai, who is expected to join in the coming days.
Canterbury GM of Football Phil Gould had been photographed meeting with the prop and was reported to have tabled a $1m per season offer, but it proved insufficient to convince him to sign.