Hands-off Luke Thompson! That's the clarion call from St Helens' straight-talking chairman Eamonn McManus over a story emanating Down Under that the highly prized English prop is heading for NRL club South Sydney.
National head coach Wayne Bennett, who is also in charge of the Rabbitohs, is currently in this country on an international fact-finding visit amid suggestions, rightly or wrongly, that he will
be targeting the 24-year-old for his club outfit in Australia.
But Tommo is contracted to his home-town club until the end of 2020 and if there is any real truth in the Aussie media report the situation presents a major conflict of interest for the national team coach.
McManus told the Daily Mirror: “My view on it is that if there are any approaches to Luke then it is a complete abuse of power.
“It’s something that we foresaw when Wayne Bennett was appointed English coach.
“You’re letting the fox into the chicken coop. This is a coach at an NRL club, not just an Australian who is coaching England as his full-time job.
"The RFL are paying him handsomely to coach our players, not poach our players. If there is any truth in this, then I will be speaking vigorously to the RFL about it.
“Luke has got 18 months left on his contract and our intention is that he fulfils it and we want to extend it.
“We’ve invested 10 years in the lad and he’s one of the best players in a very good side.
“We believe he can win things and be a key player at St Helens for a very long time.”
McManus says that retaining homegrown players remains a top priority for St Helens who are currently six points clear at the top of Super League and in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
He added: “Our policy is based entirely on producing and retaining players - we are not a buying or a selling club.
“If there are two or three positions we need to fill with overseas players then we do so, but the core of our club and all our best and highest paid players have been produced here.
“We made some short-term sacrifices in order to get long-term benefits and we’re starting to see the results of that and not something we want to break up now.”