His future left up in the air by the stunning breakdown of a rich long-term deal with Canterbury, Andrew Fifita has one less option available to him after South Sydney declared they would not resume their quest to sign him.
The Rabbitohs, with money to spend due to the impending exit of Sam Burgess to English rugby, were one of Fifita's leading suitors before he opted to link with the Bulldogs for a deal reportedly worth $3.4 million over four years.
They were unable to match the offer presented to Fifita by Canterbury but when the 24-year-old's deal at Belmore sensationally came unstuck on Monday, Souths were once again cast as a possible destination for the NSW State of Origin and Kangaroos forward.
However, the competition heavyweights said on Wednesday they would not re-enter the market for Fifita.
"We wish Fifita the best of luck but we've moved on," Souths chief executive Shane Richardson said.
"We had an interest in Andrew Fifita but it got out of our price range and we moved on, and we've still moved on. We've changed in our thoughts about what funds we have so we've already got it in our own mind what we want to do with them from a recruitment point of view."
It was speculated that Penrith's representative front-rower Tim Grant was on the brink of joining Souths at the weekend, only for the Panthers to release a statement on Monday saying they hoped to keep the out-of-contract former Origin prop. It is unclear exactly how last year's preliminary finalists will proceed in their efforts to replace Burgess but their position on Fifita narrows the options for the 115kg Cronulla star.
HIs management has met with NRL officials over claims a memorandum of understanding between Canterbury and Fifita was not honoured - there was said to be a shortfall of up to $1 million in the contract presented to the player last week - but he remains in limbo and unlikely to be able to earn the $850,000 a season he stood to at the Bulldogs. Without Souths in the picture Fifita's immediate alternatives are Cronulla or a switch to rugby, and the Sharks say they have not yet resumed contract talks with him or his management team.
The Dragons may re-enter the race for the World Cup winner, after they withdrew their interest following Canterbury’s large bid.
Meanwhile Cronulla chief Steve Noyce said the club's priority was to make sure Fifita was OK.
"I think we'll just let the dust settle there for a little while. Andrew just needs to go and play some good footy against the Warriors (on Saturday) and if he can play good footy the rest of it looks after itself."
At least there is some certainty at the Sharks with suspended coach Shane Flanagan re-signing with the club until at least the end of 2017. Flanagan, who has coached the club since taking over form Ricky Stuart midway through 2010, is currently banned for 12 months after the NRL found that he had failed his players in regards to safeguarding their health and welfare during the 2011 season.
The Sharks finished 13th in his first full season at the helm before making the semi-finals in the past two years.
“It is an important signing for the club as Shane will play a pivotal role in the development of the football operations and in the delivery of sustained and continued success at the Sharks, both on and off the field,” Noyce said.
“Last year Shane’s leadership, focus and work ethic played a significant role in the success the team achieved throughout what was a very difficult season.”
Fairfax Media revealed on Tuesday that Flanagan had been sounded out by several English Super League clubs on a short-term deal and the NRL won’t stand in his way. Flanagan has been approached and is considering switching to England for some part of the Super League season as either an assistant or consultant. Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen said Flanagan is the “leader” of the club.
““Flanno is respected by all the players and staff,” Gallen said.