A return to Melbourne has been ruled out by off-contract North Queensland NRL centre Justin O’Neill.
But the Cowboys’ flyer admits he might be tempted to leave the reigning NRL premiers.
North Queensland coach Paul Green conceded this week they would not be able to retain all of their off-contract stars.
Kangaroos prop James Tamou has been linked to a 2017 move to Penrith on a lucrative four-year deal.
Now, Queensland State of Origin hopeful O’Neill has stoked speculation about his future ahead of Saturday night’s Suncorp Stadium clash with Melbourne as part of a NRL double header.
O’Neill on Thursday quickly dismissed a return to Melbourne where he launched his NRL career from 2010-14, earning a spot in the 2013 Queensland game one squad on standby for winger Darius Boyd.
“I haven’t heard anything from them – that’s a myth,” he said of a Melbourne move.
The Cowboys’ centre could not exactly guarantee his future at North Queensland either.
Asked if he had a club preference, O’Neill said: “Not really. I am waiting on a meeting with my manager to get a better understanding of who I will choose”.
Either way, O’Neill expected to decide his future sooner rather than later.
“I am getting closer. I am in tight communication with my manager and the club,” he said.
“There’s discussions there. I am pretty keen on getting a decision pretty soon.”
Apart from Tamou and O’Neill, the Cowboys are also fighting to keep back-rower Ethan Lowe.
North Queensland look set to lose players despite an impassioned plea from Lachlan Coote.
The Cowboys’ fullback sacrificed $1.8 million by recently knocking back a Sydney Roosters deal to stay in Townsville.
And he asked teammates to also take a pay cut in order to stay and build a Cowboys dynasty.
But Green conceded this week: “The reality is that we probably won’t be able to keep everyone.
“Whether that is Jimmy (Tamou) or someone else, I am not sure.”