Wests Tigers' Paul Momirovski and Melbourne's Harry Grant could be trading clubs as soon as this week if Brandon Smith is cleared to make a surprise early return from a fractured cheekbone.
Amid all the chaos and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, Momirovski and Grant are preparing to switch cities once more after negotiations around the player swap have progressed significantly in recent weeks.
Last month the NRL was unwilling to sign off on the arrangement that would result in the pair trading places in 2020 before returning to their original clubs for next season.
A "difference in interpretation" around the salary cap meant Momirovski's arrival would have pushed Melbourne over budget by around $15,000.
NRL.com understands the passing of the March 1 deadline for each club's 29-man playing squad to be locked in has created more wiggle room on the Storm's books, and once Smith returns to the paddock Craig Bellamy is willing to send Grant north in the hope of getting more game time at Concord.
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Smith has impressed Melbourne with his recovery from a facial fracture after playing on with the injury in a man-of-the-match All Stars performance in late February.
His original recovery time was set between four to six weeks, but the Kiwi dynamo is pushing to be back in the selection frame for Saturday's clash with Cronulla at Kogarah.
It's believed the swap deal is unlikely to be finalised in time for Momirovski and Grant to be available for round two at their new clubs, with round three a more realistic time frame provided NRL games are still played under the cloud of coronavirus.
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Neither Grant or Momirovski played as their sides each racked up wins in round one.
Grant was a late withdrawal from Melbourne's game-day 17 against Manly when Nelson Asofa-Solomona was passed fit to return from a hamstring injury, while Momirovski warmed up as 18th man for the Tigers win over St George Illawarra.
Momirovski remains in negotiations with the Tigers around an extension beyond 2020, but would move to Melbourne for this season with the expectation of a return to Concord held by both he and the joint-venture.
Grant is contracted to the Storm until the end of 2022 and will return to the club at the end of this season should the swap deal go ahead.
The 22-year-old asked for a release recently in the hope of moving to the Tigers, but Smith's injury left Melbourne with little option but to deny the request given the need for a back-up for evergreen skipper Cameron Smith.
Grant is still seen as a potential successor to Smith's No.9 jersey given Brandon's effectiveness elsewhere in the pack, while the swap arrangement offers both clubs more depth in key positions and both players a crack at landing more regular first-grade appearances.
Neither Melbourne or the Tigers have made official comment on the contract arrangements.