Tim Moltzen returned from the bright lights of Las Vegas yesterday to darkness surrounding his NRL future. But he wanted to make one thing clear: ''I want to stay with the Tigers.''
Breaking his silence on the contract stand-off between Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra Dragons, Moltzen was adamant yesterday that he wanted to remain with his present club. However, he admitted he had been disappointed a stalemate had occurred between the Tigers and the Dragons, who both have him on their rosters for next year.
''When I thought that I was going to be going [to the Dragons], I thought it was the right thing at that time,'' Moltzen said. ''I wasn't playing good footy, I wasn't enjoying myself. I thought I was going to be losing mates.
''Then things have turned full circle. I bawled my eyes out after my last game because I thought that was my last game for the Tigers. I thought that was it for me, that group of people.
''But I think that's all changed for me now. I'd love to stay at the Tigers. I don't mean to cause any harm by what has happened. I didn't want to upset the Dragons fans or the club.''
Moltzen has been the subject of a bitter tug-of-war between the two clubs, but the 23-year-old had inadvertently escaped the frenzy, travelling to Las Vegas for a pre-arranged end-of-season trip with Tigers teammates including Beau Ryan and Lote Tuqiri.
Moltzen had been led to believe he would be better served moving on from the Tigers next year, and did so knowing that the futures of close friends Ryan and Chris Heighington were also in the air. After he produced a wonderful back-end of the season, and with Heighington and Ryan staying with the club, he was comfortable when Tigers officials told him they would not release him to take up his three-year deal with the Dragons. While he had signed that deal, the Tigers had not given an official release.
The case is now headed for the NRL, with salary cap auditor Ian Schubert to make a determination on which club has the rights over Moltzen. The player hopes he does not become a pawn and his own wishes are taken into account.