Richmond is fighting to retain two of its key young stars, with Reece Conca beginning to consider a shift home to Perth and a third-party agreement emerging as one stumbling block in Dustin Martin's contract negotiations.
As the AFL asked Richmond on Monday to explain Dustin Martin's emotional jailhouse salute after his second-quarter goal against Carlton on Sunday, it was revealed the Tigers are keen for Martin to also be paid for a mentoring role with indigenous youth at Punt Road's Korin Gamadji Institute.
The Tigers have asked the AFL to approve a deal allowing Martin to be paid outside the salary cap. But the AFL revised its third-party agreement rules late last year, tightening the criteria for approval.
It then ruled earlier this year that Chris Judd's payments as a Visy ambassador, which had sat outside of the salary cap, were now to be split between the salary cap and injury-allowance payments. It is understood Geelong's Joel Selwood and Collingwood's Dane Swan have similar deals.
While the Tigers face a salary-cap squeeze, Martin remains one of the planks the Tigers want to build around, but the onballer had wanted about $600,000 a season to remain. The Tigers are offering about $500,000.
It is understood the parties recently were close to a two-year deal, but Martin's manager, Ralph Carr, is now unhappy with some points of the contract. Carr said there was ''nothing to report'' when contacted on Monday.
The Tigers remain confident of retaining the pair. Tigers football operations manager Dan Richardson said at the weekend a deal with Martin was ''very close'', with the finer details to be hammered out now the season is over.
The AFL has asked Richmond to investigate why Martin offered the jailhouse salute, which came in front of the biggest crowd ever at an elimination final. It is considering taking a stand and fining Martin to stamp out a growing trend among players.
The AFL's football operations boss Mark Evans confirmed he was concerned by Martin's gesture but would wait for an official explanation from the club before taking any further action. ''We definitely have an issue with players making certain gestures and we've asked Richmond to investigate what motivated Dustin's,'' said Evans.
In the past the AFL has left any disciplinary action up to the club concerned. Earlier this season the Essendon leadership group spoke with Michael Hibberd to ensure the 'handcuff' gesture was not repeated.
However, it is understood the AFL could issue a statement against such a gesture being repeated and could even consider fining Martin should it be established his had prison connotations.
Collingwood small forward Andrew Krakouer, another who has done the jailhouse salute, tweeted his support for Martin, but the posting was later removed. Former St Kilda duo Brendon Goddard and Michael Gardiner have also celebrated kicking a goal in the same way.
Meanwhile, Conca wants to remain at Punt Road and is happy to sign a two-year deal, as was made clear to the Tigers months ago. But finances remain an issue.
It is understood Conca is after about $350,000 a season, believed to be a modest rise on the final year of his initial three-year deal.
West Coast and Fremantle have expressed interest in Conca, taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 national draft, and he has begun to consider a return home. Industry sources believe Conca would secure a healthier pay day should he emerge on the open market.
Conca's season ended in a shattering manner when he tore his hamstring early in the elimination-final loss. He went for scans on Monday morning. ''It's not great. Obviously, we went in with pretty high expectations,'' Conca said.