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Titans: Hot Tomane signing not personal

Published: 2:18PM Friday June 12, 2009 Source: AAP

It may have been tempting but there was no gloating from Gold Coast Titans boss Michael Searle after pulling off a stunning coup right under the noses of the Melbourne Storm.

That's the same Melbourne Storm NRL club that emerged victorious over the Titans in an ugly tug-of-war for winger Steve Turner just three years ago.

Joseph Tomane, still just 19, has emerged as one of the NRL's hottest prospects following his stunning 24-point haul in last Friday's demolition of the Broncos - just his ninth NRL game.

And the Titans' two-year signing of Tomane this week is made all the more remarkable considering Melbourne believed rugby union posed their greatest threat.

However, Searle said pinching the NRL's next big thing from the Storm was nothing personal.

"That (Turner saga) it wasn't an issue for us," Searle said. "We are over that. (Storm CEO) Brian Waldron and I are good mates now.

"We still take the piss out of each other every time it (Turner) comes up."

Waldron may now be able to chuckle over the Turner fallout but it seems no one at the Storm is seeing the funny side of Tomane's departure at the end of the season.

Especially Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

The Melbourne mentor admitted that he contemplated dropping Tomane for the rest of the season when he heard this week that the youngster was Titans-bound.

"I was an assistant at Brisbane in 2001 when coach Wayne Bennett told Justin Hodges that he had no place in first grade (after signing with the Roosters)," Bellamy wrote in his News Limited column on Friday.

"Until Wednesday I could never understand why. Now I know."

Bellamy added that he "felt negotiations hadn't been completely honest, that we weren't given a realistic chance of retaining a player we poured so much hard work in to since luring him from rugby union".

However, Bellamy appears to have cooled down with Tomane retaining his place in the clash against South Sydney at Perth on Saturday night - his seventh NRL game this season.

Searle reiterated that family ties helped get Tomane to the Titans. His father lives in Logan, situated between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Tomane is set to link in the centres with another young flyer (Esi Tonga) with Gold Coast three-quarter Brett Delaney set to return to Sydney next season.

"Joseph was a good get for us," Searle said.

"He will play right centre because we are pretty confident that Brett will move back to Sydney and we understand that.

"We put an offer on the table that was substantial for BD (Delaney), but his family comes first and we respect that he wants to go home."

Tomane adds to the Titans already exciting batch of youngsters including Kevin "Flash" Gordon, 19, PNG international winger David Mead, 20, and 20-year-old Tonga.

Talks with veteran winger Chris Walker, now touted as an Origin prospect, are "still in limbo" according to Searle.

"But the addition of Joseph gives us real strikepower out wide and it is also a very young side - we are very excited about those propsects," he said.

Meanwhile, off contract Turner has not received an offer from the Storm.

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