A secret clause buried in the new contract of David Fifita could leave one of the NRL's hottest prospects unexpectedly a free agent.
Gold Coast had re-signed Fifita back in August to a new three-year deal, seemingly ruling out a departure from Robina at the end of 2023 season.
The Titans forward had been set to reportedly become a free agent from November 1, which only fuelled speculation of rival clubs luring Fifita away after teammate and captain Tino Fa'asuamaleaui extended his ongoing deal from 2026 for a further seven years.
The concern at the time was that a $12 million payout for Fa'asuamaleaui over the next decade would force the brilliant Torres Strait Islander to leave to find the best possible financial offer on the open market.
A News Corp report has since discovered the fine print in Fifita's contract, worth around $1 million a year, which may explain his decision to remain on the Gold Coast that has included a clause for "player options" ahead of the 2024 and 2025 seasons.
The clause has reportedly revealed a cooling-off period while the 23-year-old attempts to build a working relationship with new coach Des Hasler.
The details reportedly gives Fifita until round 10 of the 2024 season to take up his player option for 2025 or depart the club inside the transfer window.
He was reportedly close to leaving the club earlier in the year after the axing of coach Justin Holbrook.
Fifita was one of a number of high-profile players that previously had a get-out clause to leave the Titans should Holbrook's own contract was terminated.
The club ended Holbook's reign with still one-and-a-half seasons to run on the deal.
Jim Lenihan, who won the Queensland Cup in 2016 and 2019 with Burleigh Bears, was anointed the interim coach in June to help smooth things over for the rest of the 2023 season.
Fifita's re-signing did come seven weeks after Hasler's appointment, but the burgeoning career of the one-time Brisbane Broncos rookie from 2018 until 2020 has been attributed to his relationship with Holbrook.
"We've put it on Dave to work hard and since he's come back from the World Cup, he has done that," Holbrook said in preseason.
Hasler had already met Fifita to talk about his coaching philosophy and what the ex-Manly and Canterbury boss expected from arguably the Titans' greatest weapon.
Fifita's agent has refused to speculate on the clause, other than to say his client had no plans to go back on the open market after twice fielding offers this year.
Canberra Raiders were one of those two NRL clubs, offering a $1 million per season, four-year contract that was ultimately turned down.
Club chief executive Don Furner said coach Ricky Stuart intends to inquire into the status of Fifita, possibly around the time Gold Coast takes on Canberra in round six.
"I'm sure Ricky will ring his agent again," Furner told The Canberra Times.
"You've got to have a real go at quality players.
"If they stay at their own club, it's not a loss, really.
"He's got his best footy ahead of him, so we'll definitely keep a close eye on that."