The Canberra Raiders' quest to re-sign star second-rower Josh Papalii has hit a frustrating impasse, with his management keen for next year's salary cap to be resolved before accelerating negotiations.
The Rugby League Players Association is hoping to hear on Tuesday whether the ARL Commission has agreed to a salary cap increase.
It will be a defining moment to see how much power the RLPA has, and if the commission fails to table a suitable offer, the standoff could drag into next year.
It is leaving rising stars like Papalii in limbo as they wait to finalise new deals and maximise their earnings.
The RLPA wants the cap increased from $5 million to $6.5 million next year, while the commission proposed a rise to $5.2 million.
Raiders captain David Shillington is Canberra's representative on the RLPA but won't be able to travel to Sydney this week because of training commitments. The representative prop fears the RLPA will need to take a strong stance if its request is denied.
The prospect of boycotting the NRL All Stars match has been raised as a way to get the players' message to the game's powerbrokers, but Shillington is opposed to the move.
''We're looking forward to hearing the response to our demands for the [collective bargaining agreement] … hopefully, the compromise is closer to our end of the negotiations,'' Shillington said.
''It's our future and our game, so we want to take control and help steer it. I'm confident we'll get a good deal. It's hard to say [what will happen if we don't get a good deal], there's a lot of talk about boycotting. It hasn't been discussed formally. Hopefully, we don't have to cross that bridge.''
Papalii's deal expires at the end of the 2013 season, and his first preference is to remain in the capital after emerging as one of the NRL's best young prospects this year.
The Auckland-born 20-year-old is regarded as a long-term representative prospect, and made headlines when he pledged his allegiance to Queensland this year.
But the salary cap increase is preventing him from finalising his future. Raiders boss Don Furner said: ''We're frustrated, he's [Papalii] frustrated; he's waiting to see [what the salary cap is] and I don't blame him.
''He knows he's our No. 1 signing; he's our No. 1 priority. He deserves an upgrade and extension, and I want to give it to him. We just have to know the [salary cap] room.''
Papalii said he wanted to sign a deal that would ''look after my family''.
''We're in progress with my manager and the Raiders now; it's just about getting the best for my family and the future,'' he said. ''I'm not sure where it's at, but hopefully I'll sign … if the Raiders can look after my family, I'll be looking to stay here long-term.''
Shillington returned to Raiders training on Monday for the first time in the pre-season and pinpointed defence as the key to turning the team into a consistent force.