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Fittler denies plans to oust star Chooks

By Todd Balym 21/04/2008 07:00:04 PM Comments (0)

Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler has slammed moves to destabilise his club, insisting he does not want to offload injured fullback Anthony Minichiello or new recruit Mark O'Meley.

Fittler is facing his toughest managerial act since taking over as head coach late last year with salary cap pressure set to split up his talent-filled squad.

Young Roosters stars Anthony Tupou and David Shillington are desperately keen to stay at Bondi Junction but the club simply can't fit them under the $4.1 million cap.

Tupou has attracted interest from Manly, the Bulldogs and Cronulla, the Sea Eagles believed to have put a four-year deal worth $1.6 million on the table.

Rumours surfaced late last week the Roosters were trying to punt O'Meley and Minichiello, two players troubled by injury in recent seasons, to free up money for the younger off contract players.

But Fittler has guaranteed the two former Test and NSW stars would see out their contracts, O'Meley until 2011 and Minichiello until 2010.

"They both have contracts with the club and they will both be staying," said Fittler.

"I want them both to stay."

Former Bulldog O'Meley, who signed a four-year deal with the Roosters early last year, said he was comfortable his position at the club was safe.

"I heard there was an auction going on ... I spoke to (chairman) Nick (Politis) and Freddy (Fittler) and they reassured me they were rumours and there was nothing behind it," he said.

The only way Minichiello would leave the club, according to Fittler, is if he fails to overcome persistent back troubles.

The Roosters are hopeful Minichiello will return for the May 10 clash with Canberra.

"He's got a back injury which, who is to say what is going to happen in the future," said Fittler.

"We're trying to deal with it as best we can, to get him on the field, not to get rid of him."

The denial to oust Minichiello and O'Meley shuts the door on Tupou remaining at Bondi Junction, unless he accepts less than his marquee worth.

Manly CEO Grant Mayer confirmed the offer to join the Sea Eagles had "expired", but the door is not shut if he is now willing to come on "our terms".

But Tupou's exit may open the door for Craig Fitzgibbon to have another season at the Roosters.

The skipper had originally been told 2007 would be his final season but a sublime start to the year has given Fittler reason to consider keeping the 30-year-old.

"There might be ways we can fit him in," said Fittler.

"I'd love him to play again, he is playing some great footy and he is someone who we can really benefit from having another year."

Fittler was adamant however that the media speculation over players' futures at the club would not destabilise their great start to 2008.

"That always happens, when you start to go good someone is always looking to chip you down," he said.

"The thing is they're not going to break us down.

"What we're saying is a lot stronger than what a couple of blokes make up and want to put in a newspaper."

"It's part of the pressure of being a footballer these days. It's not just the football, it's dealing with the scrutiny and dealing with the fabrications and the truth and what's the difference between both."

O'Meley said he would be disappointed if Tupou left the club and admitted Willie Mason's late signing last November had added further pressure to the cap squeeze.

"We picked up Mason late, it puts a bit of pressure (on the cap) and starts to squeeze players out," said O'Meley.

"(But) if Toops wanted to stay I'm sure there would be avenues where he could stay ... I would feel a little bit disappointed (for him) since he has been here his whole career."

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