the billionaire owner of Melbourne Cup prospect Mount Athos has revealed an ambitious bid to raid the NRL of its superstars for his Super League club Salford -starting with Sonny Bill Williams.
Speaking from England ahead of his arrival in Melbourne on Friday, English entrepreneur Marwan Koukash told Fairfax Media that he will host several player managers and league officials during the Cup carnival.
“There's a few players on my shopping list,” said Koukash, who bought the struggling Red Devils a year ago. “Whether I win the Melbourne Cup or not, I will be buying marquee Australian players.
“About 12 months ago, I knew nothing about rugby league. I'd never been to a match in my life. Some people would still say I don't know much about rugby league. But I know how to build a winning team and a winning culture.
“The club I took over was the worst in the competition. The culture stunk. I changed everybody, including the players. I brought in 15 quality players, some of whom would walk into many NRL teams. For 2015, my plan is to win the competition, which will definitely mean I will have to raid your competition and take one or two of your better players.”
Asked which players he would target, he said: “To be fair to them, I'd rather not mention their names. But we are talking about the superstars of rugby (league).”
It is understood Koukash is eyeing off Kiwi stars Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering and Ben Matulino.
He also wants to convince Williams to stay in the code.
Earlier this year, he launched an audacious $1 million bid for the dual-international, but negotiations broke down.
Typical of his aggressive style, Koukash has not given up hope of signing Williams for 2015, even though the 28-year-old is strongly tipped to head back to the All Blacks for the Rugby World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where Sevens will be included for the first time.
“Sonny Bill, we'd be interested in him if he wanted to change his mind and stay in the league,” Koukash said. “We would love to get him.”
Koukash has bought a platoon of stars for the 2014 Super League season, including veteran Adrian Morley, English internationals Rangi Chase and Gareth Hock, and NRL players Junior Sa'u and Lama Tasi.
"I want to finish top four next year," he said. "And win it the year after."
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