Salary cap auditor Ian Schubert will become the key player in the stand-off over the contract of Wests Tigers fullback Tim Moltzen.
NRL officials confirmed yesterday that the administration was now investigating the duel between the Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons, who had signed the 23-year-old to a three-year deal starting next year only for the Tigers to refuse to release him.
Both clubs refuse to budge over the issue, and Schubert will now become the referee. He is likely to speak with Dragons and Tigers officials, Moltzen and his manager, Martin Tauber, in order to make a determination.
The development comes after Dragons chief executive Peter Doust said on Wednesday he had urged the NRL to intervene over the saga.
But Schubert’s decision might not be the end of the battle between the clubs, which has been bubbling since July, but exploded last week.
Should either club be dissatisfied with the chief auditor’s recommendation, they could take their case to the NRL’s appeals committee.
Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys was adamant yesterday that the Tigers were not prepared to release Moltzen, who is contracted to the club until the end of next season.
Doust said on Wednesday that the Dragons had been led to believe, throughout the process, that Moltzen would be given a release, and even during discussions this week with Humphreys.
”Admittedly, if we did have the signed release from the Wests Tigers then we would not be in this situation,” Doust said. ”However, we strongly believe this matter should be judged on the principles of intent and actions arising in good faith.”
It is understood the Tigers will argue that while Dragons officials negotiated with Tauber and spoke with Moltzen himself during the process, at no stage did they attempt to clarify the terms of the release with the Tigers.