Andrew Fifita may need to look overseas if he wants to fulfil his dream of returning to rugby union.
The tight financial environment in Australian rugby means there are serious doubts over whether an Australian franchise could afford the rugby league star.
The Brumbies and the Reds will be on the lookout for a No.8, the position to which Fifita would presumably switch, but the Waratahs, Rebels and Force all have Test No.8s on contract until at least the end of next year.
Fifita has had the door closed on him at the Bulldogs days after saying he wished he "chose rugby" instead of inking a history-making $3.5 million four-year deal with the NRL club.
He may get his wish earlier than expected but it is difficult to see him playing Super Rugby for an Australian team next year considering the money he will be after.
"We’re not aware of Andrew Fifita’s contractual matters and have not had any recent discussions with him," the ARU said late on Monday. "If Andrew wanted to talk to us, it would need to be for rugby reasons and not based on the earning capacity he could demand in league.
"We won’t have any further comment on this matter, and as far as we are aware, we are not involved in his current or future plans."
The comments are a warning to the 24-year-old prop. Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie met with Fifita late last year but talks did not progress.
And while the ARU has benefited handsomely from the Waratahs' signing of Israel Folau, there are no guarantees Fifita would be the same easy fit.
Folau's deal came down to circumstance – his deal with Parramatta fell through – hard work on the part of the Waratahs and Rugby Union Players Association and an unlikely but extremely fortuitous mesh of personalities.
Could Waratahs coach Michael Cheika pull another such rabbit out of the hat?
It is his practice to bring home NSW players. He fished Kurtley Beale out of Melbourne and Matt Carraro and Tala Grey out of Europe. Fifita is, in one way, just his kind of project.
But with Folau, Beale and Michael Hooper on his books – not to mention Wycliff Palu signed until the end of next year – it is difficult to see how NSW could afford Fifita.
France or England could be Fifita's best option to replicate the sort of financial terms he had worked out with the Bulldogs.
Then there is intent. Little more than a month ago Cheika made the following comments about Fifita's mooted return to rugby:
"There can't be any interest unless the guy actually comes up to us and says 'I'm interested in playing'. I don't think it's rugby's intention to say 'let's go out and get this league player'. As is happening more and more now, if a player decides he wants to cross codes ... you don't really think about it until then."
The sentiment still rings true.