Cronulla are edging closer to making their move on Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson after the Warriors were forced to cut ties with the unhappy NRL star.
Johnson was granted an immediate release from the Auckland-based Warriors on Wednesday, ending an eight-year relationship that promised so much yet delivered so little.
Upset after being told he wouldn't be offered a contract for 2020, a jilted Johnson met with coach Stephen Kearney and chief executive Cameron George on Tuesday to request an exit from the final year of his lucrative deal.
That was granted on Wednesday, with George claiming that keeping their record pointscorer would have compromised the club's culture in 2019.
The Sharks had immediately emerged as the favourites to snap up the playmaker, with space in their salary cap available after the departure of Valentine Holmes.
It's understood the club's recruitment team met on Wednesday to discuss the option and details of any potential offer.
Johnson's arrival would allow him to partner Chad Townsend in the halves, while Matt Moylan would return to fullback in the absence of Holmes.
It would also leave coach Shane Flanagan's son Kyle one step further away from a regular NRL spot in the halves, although it's unclear how long Johnson would sign for.
More clubs would have the potential to pursue him for 2020 if he signs a short-term deal, with Cronulla one of only a few clubs ready to accommodate him immediately.
Canberra have already pulled out of the race while the Sydney Roosters would wait until Cooper Cronk retires at the end of next year before making a move.
The Gareth Widdop situation could have made Johnson a perfect fit at St George Illawarra but it's understood that issue is still developing.
Johnson was giving away few clues in his only public statement, a lengthy Instagram post accompanied by a photograph of him signing the release papers.
He described this week as "crazy" and wished the Warriors well.
"I've got nothing bad to say about anyone involved with the club, sometimes things just don't work out and I know they will be sweet and take things to where we all want them to be," he said.
"I'm ok and really looking forward to what's next! I get to go somewhere fresh and take my game to a new level ... how good!"
Warriors CEO George defended his club's dealings with Johnson saying the Warriors wanted extra time to gauge market value.
"It's important as a club competing in the toughest competition in the world in rugby league that you take your time when you consider your expenditure," George said.
"You can't afford to over pay and in a lot of cases you can't afford to under pay someone because they'll get pinched very quickly.
"But I saw evidence yesterday in our meeting of an individual who didn't want to represent this club in 2019 and acted accordingly.
"Based on that, we're not jeopardising what we've got in place here."