There was no room for Canberra Raiders 2017 recruit Joe Tapine in the Newcastle Knights NRL team photo on Tuesday, fuelling speculation he is headed to the capital for the 2016 season.
Canberra and Newcastle named sides for their trial on Saturday in Orange, with powerful forward Tapine a noticeable omission from the 25-man Knights squad.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said on Monday night: "Joe was not required at the team photo while the club and his management consider his options for the upcoming season."
And Ricky Stuart said he was none the wiser on Tapine's movements in 2016.
"I keep hearing about the situation with 2016 and 17, but I don't know what Newcastle are doing with Joe," Stuart said.
"I'm just very comfortable with the way we went about things, Joe made a decision and a choice for his career and hopefully it's the right one. [What happens this year] has got nothing to do with us and it's a situation the Knights have to control."
A fit and healthy Tapine would create headaches for Stuart, who said he was "80 per cent" settled on his first-round team to take on the Penrith Panthers.
Injured stars Blake Austin and Shaun Fensom were the only players left out of his trial squad, with fullback Jack Wighton named despite suffering a head knock in last weekend's All Stars match.
Stuart said Wighton had recovered well but would be given a final test later in the week before making a decision on whether he played in his home town. He said Fensom and Austin would definitely be right for round one at Canberra Stadium.
"Wighton's a lot better today," Stuart said.
"He was OK Sunday, pulled up a little dusty on Monday but he's come back into training today and he's nice and healthy. We'll monitor as we go, he'll do a test at the back end of the week to make sure he's 100 per cent right to play, otherwise we'll sit him out.
"Talking to our physio Konrad [Schultz], Shaun is OK to play, but another two weeks for Shaun will only make his arm stronger and probably give him a little more confidence. He will definitely be right for round one.
"Blake is just starting full contact now, he's been doing a fair bit of semi-contact in his rehabilitation, and just taking all of the precautions we need to.
"He did a good contact session today and I'm sure he will available for game one too."
With 26 players headed to Orange on Wednesday, Stuart said he would give some players bigger minutes than others. He expected to test out different combinations and the make up of the bench in the side's only trial before round one.
"I'm probably about 80 per cent [for round one] - it's just different combinations we have to look at and how we deal with the bench," he said.
"It's probably to do with how I'm going to structure the bench, what type of utility you have available, the front rower situation, do you play two nines? The trial will give us a heads up in regards to that."
Newcastle Knights v Canberra Raiders: Saturday, 6.30pm at Wade Park, Orange.
Knights: 1. Jaelen Feeney, 2. Jake Mamo, 3. Pat Mata'utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Jack Stockwell, 11. Korbin Sims, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Mickey Paea, 16. Pauli Pauli, 17. Sam Mataora, 18. Jacob Saifiti, 19. Daniel Saifiti, 20. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 21. Will Pearsell, 22. Nathan Ross, 23. Sione Mata'utia, 24. David Bhana, 25. Chanel Mata'utia.
Raiders (squad): Kurt Baptiste, Mitchell Barnett, Luke Bateman, Shannon Boyd, Adam Clydsdale, Jarrod Croker (c), Lachlan Croker, Josh Hodgson, Jarrad Kennedy, Rhys Kennedy, Brenko Lee, Edrick Lee, Joey Leilua, Jeff Lima, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Kato Ottio, Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana, Zac Santo, Aidan Sezer, Sia Soliola, Paul Vaughan, Sisa Waqa, Elliott Whitehead, Jack Wighton, Jack Williams, Sam Williams.