Greg Eastwood is set to return to the NRL next season after securing an early release from Leeds - but a NZ$200,000 transfer fee being demanded by his English club has Canterbury, his former team, baulking.
While agreeing to place him on the transfer market, the Rhinos are playing hardball with the large transfer settlement demand, which clearly shocked Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg. The Bulldogs have long been linked to a return by Eastwood, a key member of their run to the preliminary final last year.
Eastwood, a New Zealander, joined the club while he waited for a visa wrangle to resolve so he could join Leeds.
However he has failed to settle in the north of England and Leeds, the Super League champions, will reluctantly release him from the final two years of his current deal - at a substantial price.
Greenberg last night said he would not be willing to pay such a fee.
''Certainly not,'' Greenberg said. ''Last time I looked, we're not the Commonwealth Bank. As much as we'd like to have him, we can't afford those sorts of transfers.''
An option, potentially, would be for the Bulldogs to absorb some of the transfer fee but the rest to be paid by Eastwood himself, given he is desperate to return.
The Bulldogs are used to negotiating these sorts of deals. They demanded the Warriors pay $2m to allow Sonny Bill Williams to play for the New Zealand club and also negotiated compensation for losing prop Ben Hannant to Brisbane.
Eastwood, a former Bronco, has had a succession of injuries, but wants to return home primarily to be closer to his family. North Queensland have been searching for back-row talent after losing Luke O'Donnell to Huddersfield, while Newcastle, Cronulla and the Warriors could also be homes for the Kiwi.
Eastwood said in a statement: ''Unfortunately I have found it tough without my family here in the UK and that is the only reason that I want to return to the NRL. I would not go to another club in Super League but hopefully somebody will give me a chance in Australia.''
- Sydney Morning Herald
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