The North Queensland Cowboys have refused to slap a do-or-die deadline on Willie Tonga’s speculated shift to the Parramatta Eels.
But there is no doubt time is fast running out for the star centre.
Granted a compassionate two-week period by the North Queensland NRL club to weigh up his options after recently revealing he was no longer happy living in Townsville, the time frame technically closes tonight.
Cowboys general manager of football Peter Parr, however, was last night adamant it was not that cut and dried. It now appears Tonga and manager Isaac Moses will at least have until the end of the weekend to finalise any proposed shift.
“Don’t be thinking that there’s a deadline at 4 o’clock and if he hasn’t got a signed contract by then, that’s it,” Parr said.
“I don’t operate like that. We all understand the situation and understand each other and we will get through this issue one way or another in a responsible manner without putting deadlines on each other.
“And I won’t be doing anything that takes the focus off Willie Tonga preparing properly for the game on Saturday night.”
If Tonga, who still has a year to run on his deal, fails to find a new club soon he would fulfil his Cowboys contract.
Despite reports on the day that the 27-year-old was given permission to explore other avenues a fortnight ago and that he had agreed to sign with Parramatta, Parr said yesterday there had been no advancement.
Eels CEO Paul Osborne also said he was “not aware” if there had been any further movement since Tonga was linked to the Eels two weeks ago when contacted by the Townsville Bulletin.
Asked if the club had offered Tonga a contract, he replied: “I don’t comment on recruitment issues.” It was an answer he repeated when asked if Parramatta were interested in the Canberra-born star.
Tonga has unquestionably reinvigorated his career at the Cowboys.
The one-time NRL premiership winner has struggled to settle in his Townsville base since signing in 2009 and with younger brother Esi and great friend Reni Matua both at Parramatta in 2012, it appears an attractive time to request a release.