CANTERBURY lock David Stagg appears to have become last man standing in the game of musical chairs that has seen players switching clubs this week and may retire after the Bulldogs' season finishes.
Stagg, who has been squeezed out of Canterbury because of the signing of Tony Williams and the emergence of Josh Jackson and Daniel Finucane, is understood to have been close to joining Newcastle after Joel Edwards shocked the Knights by signing with Canberra.
However, the move fell through when speculation arose that Cronulla's Jeremy Smith may become available and the Kiwi hardman is now expected to join Newcastle to help the Sharks accommodate Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan from Wests Tigers.
As a result, Stagg's best hope of playing next season lies with Penrith, who are believed to be considering making him an offer.
Having ruled out playing in England, 28-year-old Stagg said he and his young family would move home to Queensland if he did not get a contract with another NRL club.
''[I'm] realising I'm closer to the end and we're preparing ourselves as best we can,'' Stagg said at Bulldogs training yesterday.
''You get to a point and you've got to think about it. It's very real, and a lot closer than it was in my early 20s. As much as I've enjoyed my time down here - it's been four years. When I do retire it'll be time to head back to the Sunshine State.''
Meanwhile, Manly prop Brent Kite yesterday played down speculation linking him to Wests Tigers as part of the merry-go-round that has seen Heighington and Ryan leave the club.
While the two-time premiership-winning front-rower admitted he would have no problem playing against the Sea Eagles, he said it would take a lot of money for him to leave the club.
''Thinking of the scenario, which comes down to dollars and cents, it would nearly have to be double,'' Kite said.
''It would take a lot to leave.''