Andrew Fifita's future may finally be on the brink of being resolved with Cronulla expected to table a new offer to the Kangaroos forward on Thursday but even if he remains a Shark his sensational breakdown of relations with the Bulldogs could still end up in court.
Representatives for Fifita met Cronulla officials on Wednesday to resume talks about retaining the 24-year-old, little more than a week after he surprisingly re-entered the marketplace for next season and beyond.
[Sharks prop Andrew Fifita tries to muscle his way through the Warriors defence last Saturday in Cronulla's big win.]
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita tries to muscle his way through the Warriors defence last Saturday in Cronulla's big win. Photo: Getty Images
The player's management group, I.am Athlete Management, has been told it can expect a formal offer this week, probably on Thursday, and if the salary matches the $700,000 the Sharks were prepared to outlay originally - before being blown out of the water by Canterbury - then Fifita is all but certain to stay.
However, Fifita's representatives are keeping their legal options open in the event that the front-rower is left significantly out of pocket in his new deal.
The NSW State of Origin and Australian prop was to earn a reported $850,000 a season over four years at the Bulldogs and signed a memorandum of understanding with the club last month. But that rich arrangement spectacularly broke down last week when Canterbury announced the deal had been terminated.
It was widely speculated that Fifita's comments to an AAP reporter four days before - when he said he had regrets about joining the Bulldogs and wished he had instead switched to rugby - were behind the 11th hour split.
But as reported by Fairfax Media those remarks were understood to be a reaction to being shown a final contract with the Bulldogs that fell well short - up to $1 million over four years - of the amount promised.
Fifita and his management are aware he will be unable to earn the kind of money he stood to at Canterbury if he re-signs with Cronulla, or goes elsewhere. And while it's understood they would be content with a highly respectable offer - and as a result then likely let the Bulldogs' contract matter rest - they are taking legal advice on the handling of the Canterbury affair. They could pursue legal action in the event he is left with a more modest offer by the Sharks or other suitors.
The Bulldogs are standing by the part they played in the breakdown of the deal.
"The reality is we came to a mutual agreement in our relationship with Andrew Fifita and his management company and that still remains our position," Canterbury chief executive Raelene Castle said on Wednesday.
Fifita's management had met officials at Rugby League Central on the day after the Bulldogs announced the split, detailing particulars in his contract the club allegedly did not honour. The long-form contract Fifita received - three weeks after signing the MOU - was said to be worth $335,000 under the salary cap and $250,000 in third-party agreements.
Asked on Wednesday for his thoughts on the way Fifita's association with Canterbury unravelled, NRL chief executive Dave Smith said: "That's a matter for the club and the player and the player manager."