After bonding at Sydney Roosters, rookie Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien has not ruled out making a play for Latrell Mitchell amid speculation the NRL superstar will walk away from the two-time defending premiers in 2020.
While Penrith were quick to rule themselves out of the race on Wednesday, O'Brien said any team would be lying if they claimed they weren't interested in the Test centre.
The Knights, Panthers, Wests Tigers and Canterbury were promptly linked to Mitchell after the Roosters sensationally withdrew their extension offer from 2021 and beyond - believed to be $800,000 a season - on Tuesday.
While Mitchell is under contract at the Tri-colours for 2020, he looks set to leave next year with the Roosters reportedly unhappy he baulked at their deal and wanted to explore his options.
While O'Brien was coy about Mitchell, the new Knights mentor said he had built a rapport with the Taree product as the Roosters attack coach in 2019 and reckoned every club would be interested in snaring the NSW X-factor.
"I think any team in the comp would be lying if they said they wouldn't be interested in him," O'Brien said.
"I connected really well with Latrell but having said that there's a lot of things to get through in terms of our own (players).
"I'm really reluctant to talk publicly. A lot of our recruitment and retention will be done in-house."
But Mitchell won't be heading to Penrith after CEO Brian Fletcher categorically ruled them out of the mix.
"We have no interest. We have cap space but he is not on our radar," Fletcher told AAP.
Reports meanwhile suggested the Tigers were preparing to put together a $3.3 million, three-year deal for the NSW X-factor to play fullback.
On paper they appeared to be front runners, with $1.7 million spare for 2020 and a staggering $6 million free for 2021 following Ben Matulino's retirement on medical grounds and the release of Ryan Matterson.
However it is believed the Tigers have not had any official conversation yet with Mitchell.
There was speculation the Tigers were also hesitant over the $1 million a season Mitchell is reportedly seeking and are now keen on Gold Coast's AJ Brimson as their No.1.
The Bulldogs also appeared to have a foot in the door following reports official George Coorey had already met with Mitchell after the club were linked with the NRL star all year.
But Dogs CEO Andrew Hill told AAP: "Nothing really changes for us - at this stage there is nothing further to report."
South Sydney may also come into play if they receive NRL salary cap compensation following former skipper Sam Burgess' retirement with a shoulder injury.
NSW and Panthers great Mark Geyer expected rival clubs to baulk at Mitchell's asking price, saying the two-time premiership winner did not deserve $1 million a season.
"He's got to get himself more involved in games to be that $1.1 or $1 million player," Geyer told Triple M Radio.
Adding to the mix, Mitchell is reportedly unhappy with his current agent Wayde Rushton after a messy split with former manager Steve Deacon earlier this season.
Mitchell made no apologies for his huge asking price in a social media spray on Tuesday night.
"I'll do what's right for my family & I. Now I have the responsibility of giving my kids a life I didn't have!!" he posted on Instagram.