The Canberra Raiders say any John Bateman contract distractions are "outside noise" as debate rages about the star forward's future in lime green.
Raiders great Laurie Daley joined the conversation on Tuesday, questioning whether Bateman was worth the reported $800,000 he is seeking in a new deal.
But the current Raiders say their only focus is the looming Storm in Melbourne when their NRL season restarts on Saturday night.
The unbeaten Raiders will be aiming for three wins in a row against the Storm for the first time in history and three wins to start a season for the first time since 2005.
Bateman won't be on the chartered flight to Melbourne on game day as he continues his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery. But it hasn't stopped tongues wagging about his contract situation after he was given permission to negotiate with other clubs.
Bateman's mongrel and winning attitude added an extra edge to the Raiders last season and his existing deal doesn't expire until the end of 2021.
He could leave sooner than that if a club, likely the Canterbury Bulldogs or St George Illawarra Dragons, are willing to pay the new asking price and if the Raiders grant him an early release.
Either Clive Churchill Medal winner Jack Wighton says it is a non-issue for the rest of the squad, backing whatever decision Bateman makes.
"We're just going about training and he's going about his business, he's handled himself very well," Wighton said of Bateman.
"He's training and ripping in, doing his part for the team. He's doing his part for the club, it's just outside noise. This is the game we play ... it's just normal business.
"We all love Johnny and love the club, it's just the way business has to be sometimes. It's above our pay grade, it's something we can't worry about. We've got to worry about playing football and winning games.
"Johnny's a grown man. He knows the boys love him ... he'll make his own decision based on his family and his little girl. We'll leave it up to him and back every choice he makes.
"Everyone handles these situations differently. He sent a little message [to the team], but everything just seems as normal."
Bateman was a huge part of the Raiders' charge to their first grand final since 1994, making a back-row impact immediately after arriving from the UK Super League.
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His tough-as-nails game gave the Raiders added starch in defence as they went within minutes of ending their premiership drought.
But the club is juggling increase wages for several players, re-signing Wighton, skippers Jarrod Croker and Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Josh Papalii and more in the past two years.
They also recruited Curtis Scott this season and Nick Cotric is in negotiations about his long-term future as a Raider.
Keeping good players together is the biggest challenge in the NRL as clubs compete for signatures, but former Australian, NSW and Raiders captain Daley said Canberra shouldn't keep Bateman at all costs.
"I said to a mate of mine who's a Bulldogs supporter, you already have John Bateman there. Josh Jackson is a John Bateman," Daley said on The Big Sports Breakfast.
"Me personally, I'd be looking for a more damaging back-rower, someone who's more explosive.
"You'd look at the financial situation at the club and you'd try and manoeuvre it to pay him a little more.
"I don't pay him $800,000, $650,000 would be the cut-off. I couldn't pay $800,000 for him.
"He's a great player, but when I'm paying $800,000 I want someone who's going to bring something a little different to what John's going to bring to the team."
NRL ROUND THREE
Saturday: Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders in Melbourne, 7.30pm.