Newcastle Knights chief executive Matthew Gidley conceded last night the club had reached an impasse in their attempts to secure a release for Danny Buderus and might have to consider paying a transfer fee to Leeds Rhinos.
Buderus, 33, wants to return to Newcastle for an NRL swansong under Wayne Bennett but is contracted to Leeds for one more season.
The Rhinos had indicated they would consider releasing Buderus if a suitably high-profile replacement could be seconded, and Knights strategic development manager Keith Onslow forwarded Leeds a shortlist of five possible candidates.
But those plans were dented yesterday when Canberra veteran Alan Tongue opted to retire.
Tongue was Leeds’s preferred option after Canterbury skipper Andrew Ryan decided recently to hang up his boots at the end of the season.
Gidley said Buderus’s agent, George Mimis, had begun sounding out alternative players, but realistically the Knights might have to part with a six-figure transfer fee.
The Bulldogs paid a reported $100,000 to Leeds 12 months ago to secure the release of Greg Eastwood.
Gidley said there was ‘‘no way’’ the Knights would entertain paying more than Leeds’s asking price for Eastwood, who is nine years younger than Buderus.
Buderus left Newcastle at the end of 2008, and it was assumed he would finish his career in Super League.
But after three successful years at Headingley, he grew interested in returning to the Knights when it became obvious Bennett had no plans to retain Isaac De Gois, who has since signed with the Cronulla Sharks.