WHATEVER little glimmer of hope Wests Tigers fans were holding on to in a bid to retain Aaron Woods has all but vanished.
While Woods signed a four-year deal with Canterbury back in April, the NRL won't register the contract until the Bulldogs are salary-cap compliant.
Cue the mayhem at Belmore, with the bulk of the Dogs' roster up for sale in order to accommodate Woods and fellow marquee signing Kieran Foran.
The Bulldogs have until the start of next year to get their funds in order, but what if they don't?
This is where speculation started to run rife that Woods, a local junior, could stay on with the club.
But Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has poured water on such suggestions.
In fact, the new mentor said the possibility of holding on to Woods had never been discussed.
Despite the constant speculation, Woods has stated on countless occasions that he will move to the kennel next year on a deal worth $3.2 million.
Asked if the Tigers could accommodate Woods next year if the Bulldogs couldn't get his deal registered with the NRL, Cleary said it wasn't an option.
"We haven't discussed it," Cleary said.
"Aaron made a commitment and as far as I know, he aims to honour that. You'd assume the Bulldogs will do the same."
In a move to free up some cash, the Bulldogs have already released Sam Kasiano from the remainder of his contract to join Melbourne next year, while Josh Reynolds has accepted a lucrative deal with the Tigers.
They also won't be re-signing Michael Lichaa, Craig Garvey or Tyrone Phillips, but still they will need to release at least one more player.
It'll most likely need to be a big name.
Captain James Graham, the Morris twins Josh and Brett, Moses Mbye and Greg Eastwood have all been tossed up.
With the exception of Josh Jackson, Dave Klemmer and Raymond Faitala-Mariner, their entire list is essentially up for negotiation.
Graham looms as the most likely to depart and St George Illawarra has zeroed in on the English international.
While clubs like Newcastle, the Warriors and Dragons have cash to play with and are ready to peck at the Bulldogs' carcass, the Tigers don't have too much room to move.
The Tigers have been extremely active in the market.
Aside from the arrival of Reynolds, Chris McQueen and New Zealand pair Russell Packer Ben Matulino headline their 2018 list, with the Kiwi duo replacing Ava Seumanufagai and Woods.
Benji Marshall, Taane Milne and Mahe Fonua are other additions that will boost their depth.
"We're almost there," Cleary said of his roster.
"We've got a little bit. We're pretty settled. I don't know if there's going to be a fire sale. I'm not sure what's going to go on but that's the reality of our game. Consistently throughout the year there's talk of players coming, going, people over the cap.
"I don't know if it's because of a bit of uncertainty around the cap this year. That's our contract system."
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