Jeremiah Nanai has expressed his desire to remain at North Queensland and attempt to become a Cowboys legend by delivering the club’s first premiership since 2015.
“I want to stay in Townsville and win a premiership, that’s on my mind and that’s where my heart is,” he told 7News reporter Michelle Bishop.
The sight of Nanai notching four-pointers either by busting through a defensive line from close-range or plucking the ball out of thin air from a Chad Townsend kick was repeated over and over again in 2022.
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Ever since he proved impossible to stop against the Broncos in round three, where he announced himself on the scene with a hat-trick, Nanai kept up a rapid scoring pace while also being invaluable in other areas with his 18 offloads and 99 average running metres per game.
He notched doubles on three separate occasions, while scoring 17 tries in total to establish himself as an integral attacking component and major reason for North Queensland’s revival under Todd Payten.
In fact, his try-scoring exploits have made him one of the most sought-after players on the NRL market with a number of Sydney-based clubs reportedly jostling for his signature.
Nanai inked a new deal this year, but it was only a one-year contract until the end of the 2023 season. This has allowed him to field offers from other clubs since November 1st and the teenager has been shocked by the level of interest.
“Seeing the amount of money is crazy,” he said.
Although, he hosed down speculation that he could be heading out the door any time soon, reiterating his commitment to his boyhood club.
“Cairns is my home and Townsville is just down the road from there and I don’t really want to move away from my family,” he said. “I don’t have much family in Sydney.”
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North Queensland’s football boss Micheal Luck revealed the Cowboys would be re-entering into negotiations with Nanai once he returned from his World Cup duties.
“We know there will be interest and we would like to think as soon as he comes back home, we can begin discussions again about securing him long-term,” he said.
“We understand other clubs will come with big offers, but we would love him to see out his career here.
“We will put forward a package that makes Jeremiah and his family comfortable with his future.
“We’re confident our offer will be competitive regardless of what other clubs are offering and we’d like to think at this stage of Jeremiah’s career he is confident in our club and the direction we’re heading in.”
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Nanai admitted how successful he has been this year has taken him slightly by surprise, as he was crowned the Dally M Rookie of the Year, made his debut for Queensland in State of Origin and was selected by Mal Meninga for the Kangaroos’ successful World Cup defence.
“This whole year, I didn’t expect it to be like this,” Nanai said.
“Playing Origin, getting to the finals with the Cowboys and now playing for Australia.
“I will always remember this year. It was one hell of a year.”
Nanai was joined on tour by three of his teammates in Valentine Holmes, Reuben Cotter and Murray Taulagi and he stated how the trio were a prime example of the Cowboys having the players required to wrestle the title off Penrith in 2023.
“All the boys are hungry for the premiership,” he said. “We’ve got the group and we need to get it done next year.”