The Titans are refusing to give up in their pursuit of Brisbane's David Fifita both now and beyond his current contract negotiations after he informed Gold Coast officials of his plans to sacrifice almost half a million dollars to stay with the Broncos.
Fifita's latest round of negotiations sent the game into a spin on Tuesday night when he called coach Anthony Seibold to tell him he would be taking up the Titans one-season deal believed to be more than $1 million for 2021.
But by Wednesday morning he had changed his mind and told Broncos officials he planned to sacrifice around $400,000 next season with a view to cashing in during his next round of negotiations.
NRL.com understands Fifita contacted Gold Coast officials late on Wednesday to formally reject their seven-figure offer, which according to a NewsCorp report has been upped once more by Titans patriarch Mal Meninga.
It is understood Meninga has effectively been given a blank cheque to pursue the 20-year-old he believes the Gold Coast can build their club around, while Fifita is still yet to put pen to paper on an estimated $700,000 Broncos deal that the club is unable to budge on due to salary cap constraints.
Fifita is targeting a return from knee injury in next Friday's Wests Tigers clash and wants to make a call on his contract before then.
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But speaking on Thursday Seibold indicated a comeback is more likely the following week against Melbourne.
NRL.com understands even if they are unsuccessful with this attempt to lure Fifita south, the Titans are willing to make another multimillion-dollar play when Fifita's next contract is up for negotiation.
Seibold on Thursday said he was uncomfortable with the spotlight on Fifita's decision, saying it "should be played out behind closed doors" and that when there was a concrete decision, it would be announced like Tesi Niu's signing had been on Wednesday.
"I don’t think it is fair to talk about whatever is bubbling away behind the scenes with regards to money," he said.
"Most clubs have a committee. In the old days the coach ran it and had someone looking after the numbers. Some clubs might go rogue and make crazy offers to young players but you don’t know what every club is working towards or what they have in their cap.
"I’d hate to make comment or pass judgement on what other clubs are doing. Any player in the game that gets offered a lot of money, there is scrutiny and pressure that comes with that."
Titans coach Justin Holbrook refused to weigh in on the headlines and hype around Fifita's future ahead of Friday's clash with the Warriors.
I don’t think it is fair to talk about whatever is bubbling away behind the scenes with regards to money.Anthony Seibold
"Dave’s a real good young guy and he will make his own decision," he said.
"I am not going to worry about any of the details of it. I am just going to get on with my job. It is a big story in the game, I understand that … but it is ongoing.
"He has got a big decision to make so I’ll leave it up to him. If he joins our club great and if he doesn’t he doesn’t so I’m not worrying too much about it."
While the Titans could yet come back with a revised offer to try to sway Fifita again in the short-term, it's understood the Gold Coast are willing to make another multimillion-dollar play when Fifita's next contract is up for negotiation.
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Re-committing to the battling Broncos on a short-term deal would mean Fifita gives up the best part of $400,000 - potentially around half a million dollars - next year, but also allows both parties to negotiate a long-term contract beyond 2021.
A one-year commitment would result in the 20-year-old becoming a free agent again from November 1.
Brisbane's closest neighbour has indicated its willingness to come calling again from that date, with Meninga making plain his desire to make Fifita a marquee player the Titans can build around.
With Jai Arrow moving on next year and the likes of Ryan James, Kevin Proctor, Nathan Peats coming off contract in 2020 the Titans have the salary cap space to emphatically trump Brisbane both now and further down the track when it comes to Fifita's services.
Complicating negotiations though is a looming split with his current agent Steve Deacon in December.
A one-year contract minimises the financial fallout that comes with changing managers, but would also allow the Fifita camp to keep their powder dry with regards to Brisbane's disastrous 2020 campaign and salary cap situation.
Fifita's mother Gwen has taken a lead role in talks, while a desire to stay north of the border close to his family has seen the Queensland Origin forward dismiss a move to Sydney at this stage of his career.
This time next year the Broncos will have far more room to move with its roster as Jack Bird and Anthony Milford headline a host of players coming off contract, with the two under fire playmakers taking up almost $2 million between them.
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The club however is wary of loading up further big money deals into a forward pack that already boasts the likes of Payne Haas, Matt Lodge and Tevita Pangai, while other rising stars like Xavier Coates, Kotoni Staggs and Tom Dearden will also be coming free agents in 2021.
Brisbane received a much-needed boost on Wednesday with confirmation Niu, who is Fifita's first cousin, has taken up a one-year extension.
He too knocked back a lucrative two-year offer from the Titans to remain at Red Hill.