Canberra's hunt for a new No.7 will continue after Titans officials told the Raiders that co-captain Jamal Fogarty would not be granted an early release to move to the nation's capital.
News of Ricky Stuart's interest in luring Fogarty south emerged on Wednesday despite the late-blooming 27-year-old inking a Titans extension just last month that would keep him with the club until the end of 2023.
Raiders officials have confirmed to NRL.com that Titans counterparts had scotched suggestions of an early release, as Brisbane confirmed their signing of Ryan James for 2022 from Canberra on a one-year deal.
Sources have described discussions between the Gold Coast and Fogarty's camp as "extremely delicate".
It is unclear if Fogarty's management will push for a release further down the line if it means securing his future elsewhere.
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Gold Coast CEO Steve Mitchell declined to comment or confirm the club's stance on Fogarty's future, saying "as a club policy we do not comment on recruitment or retention".
Under NRL rules, Fogarty would require the Titans' permission to begin formal negotiations with rivals given his latest extension took him off the 2023 free agency list.
Fogarty is highly regarded at the Titans – a status reflected in his captaincy alongside Kevin Proctor after just 41 NRL games – but is facing competition for a starting halves spot next season.
The emergence of youngsters Toby Sexton and Jayden Campbell alongside AJ Brimson has coach Justin Holbrook facing a selection headache, though Fogarty is understood to still have strong support to keep the No.7 jersey while Sexton continues to develop.
For the Raiders, interest in released Titans utility Tyrone Peachey remains, with Wests Tigers also understood to have flagged him as a potential recruit.
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Peachey's asking price is a point of concern for Canberra, who have made a halves partner for Jack Wighton their overwhelming roster priority.
Speaking prior to the developments around Fogarty, veteran Raiders recruitment chief Peter Mulholland said James' release to the Broncos would see further funds added to Canberra's halfback pursuit.
While fellow Raiders veteran Dunamis Lui has also been told he won't be re-signed, James has now officially taken up a one-year deal with the Broncos after having been in their sights more than once over the course of his career.
"We have made no secret of the fact that we have been looking for an experienced forward to to bolster our pack and help our younger forwards grow and improve - Ryan James fits that bill perfectly," Broncos football director Ben Ikin said.
“Not only is he still playing good football, Ryan is a great leader and models the behaviours we are trying to develop across our playing group.”
Canberra have been in the market for a game-managing halfback since George Williams's abrupt return to the UK with 18 months remaining on his contract.
Williams was earning around $600,000 a season at Canberra, though given a dearth of quality halves in the market that is not necessarily a figure the club is looking to spend on his replacement.
"We're still looking for a halfback and that's our priority," Mulholland told NRL.com.
"We've got a reasonable amount that we've allocated for that, I wouldn't say it's a substantial amount.
"We're probably not going to replace Ryan James with a similar player to him given we've got a group of good young middles that can help us in that situation.
"And it wasn't that we didn't want Ryan James to stay.
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"It's more that he wasn't going to be offered a contract beyond next year and we thought it's in his best interest for him if the chance is there, to make that move back to Queensland with his family."
Former Titans playmaker Ash Taylor has been entertained previously by the Raiders but is also on the Warriors' radar after meeting with club figures last week.
No offer has been tabled as yet to the 26-year-old though both parties see positives in linking with the Kiwi franchise given they will be based in Redcliff next season.