Souths primed to go after big stars Brent Read | November 23, 2007 MANLY is close to concluding protracted contract talks with Brett Stewart and hopes to secure the Test fullback on a long-term deal early next week. Stewart Sea Eagles chief executive Grant Mayer met Stewart's manager George Mimis yesterday and said they were close to an agreement. News of Stewart's imminent retention came as South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson warned his club was primed to create havoc in the player market. Souths are flush with funds after yesterday releasing co-captain Peter Cusack from the final year of his contract to join English club Hull. The Rabbitohs have already flagged their intentions to pursue Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne and Newcastle's Kurt Gidley, who both come off contract at the end of next year. Stewart is also up for grabs at the end of 2008, although Mayer is confident he will be locked in within days. "We're pretty comfortable with where the negotiations are," Mayer said. "I hope we can get something done early next week." Once Manly has secured Stewart, the club will turn its attention to coach Des Hasler. It is understood talks with Hasler are at an advanced stage and an announcement could quickly follow the Stewart coup. While Manly is unlikely to be among the heavy hitters in the player market next year, Cusack joining Hull on a two-year deal gives Souths even more room to move as it sets about targeting some of the game's biggest names. "It will give us a bit of space to create havoc next season," Richardson said. Hayne and Gidley are at the top of the hit-list as the Rabbitohs look to strengthen their backline. Hayne's manager Wayne Beavis is in Townsville, where another of his clients, Matt Bowen, is involved in contract talks with North Queensland. "We have had some fruitful conversations," Richardson said of the talks with Hayne. "Now we have to sit back and wait." As for the decision to release Cusack, Richardson said: "We spoke to Peter about six weeks ago regarding his and our plans and we didn't want him to miss a window of opportunity of going to the UK to finish his career if he so desired. "We were happy for Peter to stay with us for another year but we are also happy for him to be able to shore up his future and finish his career in England." Cusack, who joined the Rabbitohs in 2005 from the Sydney Roosters, said: "My time at the Rabbitohs has been wonderful, being part of the team that made the finals for the first time in 18 years ... this club will only get stronger."