After weeks of unwanted headlines and not so secret meetings, Latrell Mitchell could move from the NRL's premiership-winning club to the wooden spooners with little more than airline points to show for his trouble.
Along the way the reputation of a 22-year-old superstar and role model has been unfairly tarnished as Mitchell has lost control of his destiny amid reports that he wants to play fullback and be paid $1 million per season in his next deal.
The balance of power in contract negotiations appears to be swinging away from players as clubs are willing to consider other options rather than pay more than they think a big name star is worth.
Mitchell is not the first player to seek more money than he was offered and suddenly find himself in limbo, with Benji Marshall rejecting a $350,000 deal to stay at St George Illawarra in 2017 and ending up in Brisbane on little more than minimum wage.
Blake Austin (Raiders) and Mitch Rein (Dragons) are other recent examples but none were regarded as the best player in their position and unlike Marshall, who appeared to be nearing the end of his career, Mitchell hasn't even reached his peak – despite having won two premierships and being a current Test player.
Whoever is advising Mitchell – and the widespread belief in league circles is that he has too many people in his ear – appear to have let him down after firstly Sydney Roosters, the Bulldogs and then Wests Tigers withdrew their offers.
He split with his manager Steve Deacon earlier this year and joined Wade Rushton but there are suggestions that others are advising Mitchell too and may even be making representations to clubs on his behalf.
A player of Mitchell's standing should have NRL clubs falling over each other to sign him after the Roosters announced on November 5 that he no longer had a future with the back-to-back premiers.
It's hard to recall the last big-name player the Roosters lost who they had wanted to keep so that is a sign of how strongly Nick Politis and Trent Robinson felt about Mitchell's reluctance to accept a two-year $1.6 million deal after learning he had met Canterbury Leagues Club chairman George Coorey.
More than three weeks on, the Tigers decided that they'd had enough too after coach Michael Maguire, CEO Justin Pascoe and GM of football Adam Hartigan drove 300km to Taree to table a four-year deal reportedly worth $3.8 million.
Perhaps the Tigers have decided that they aren't going to be dictated to after being torn apart by the loss of James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Aaron Woods two years ago following attempts to retain the trio and Luke Brooks, who were off contract together.
The Bulldogs decided against making an offer and South Sydney – the club many believe would be the best fit for Mitchell because of their connections with the Indigenous community – have repeatedly stated that they are not interested.
North Queensland, where Mitchell was ambushed by the media as he dined with Cowboys officials and toured the club's facilities, were never a serious contender for his services once Valentine Holmes decided to quit the New York Jets practice squad and return to the NRL on a six-year deal.
Many believe that being photographed at a meeting with the Cowboys was not a good look for Mitchell and while there is no suggestion that one of his advisors tipped the media off it has happened before, with an off-contract star once asking how a photographer knew the details of his Saturday golf game. The truth on that occasion was that the player's manager had tipped off a journalist at the newspaper the photographer worked for.
With the Tigers withdrawing their offer on Thursday, Mitchell's best hope of avoiding a stint with North Sydney in the Canterbury Cup next season appears to be the Titans, who have publicly declared their interest and boast Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga as a drawcard.
However, Gold Coast must first find the money to make Mitchell an offer and there is speculation that could cost them the club's best forward Jai Arrow, who has been linked with Souths, along with St George Illawarra's Test second-rower Tyson Frizell.
For Mitchell, the doubts about his future are a disappointing end to a year that started so well after he earned massive kudos for choosing to play for the Indigenous All Stars over a trip to England for the World Club Challenge against St Helens.
He also won praise and widespread support across the game for taking a public stand against racism directed at him on social media.
On the field, his form was outstanding and he turned in arguably the best individual performance of the season against Wests Tigers but Mitchell's fall from grace began when he was dumped from the NSW team after the opening State of Origin game at Suncorp Stadium.
After helping the Roosters to become the first team to win back-to-back premierships since the Broncos of 1992 and 1993, Mitchell is now making arrangements to visit the Gold Coast next week as he awaits an offer from the Titans.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.