Australia's champion NRL club Brisbane Broncos says it cannot match the money the Australian Rugby Union is prepared to pay Lote Tuqiri to persuade him not to return to rugby league.
Tuqiri, who is one of the Wallabies' main attacking trump cards heading into next year's World Cup, has expressed an interest in returning to rugby league.
But reports say to do that Tuqiri may have to be prepared to earn less than half the money than what he can earn playing rugby union.
Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen said yesterday he could not imagine any other National Rugby League club being prepared to offer Tuqiri more than half the A$1 million (US$750,000) base salary the ARU is ready to pay him.
"If Lote was to say, `I want to go back to league,' we would be on the phone to him to see if it was at least possible to work something out," Cullen told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. "But if it was a case of trying to match offers from [rugby] union, the sort of money being talked about would blow us out of the water. We've got a salary cap to deal with and our marquee players are around the A$400,000 bracket."
"I think there would be two or three [NRL] clubs prepared to pay A$500,000, but I'd say that would see it out. I think the union people have decided to try to make the decision for Lote by making him an offer he can't refuse."
Tuqiri left with the Wallabies yesterday for their four-Test tour of Europe.
Jonah Lomu has turned down a contract offer from the Gold Coast Titans in Australia's National Rugby League, preferring to remain in rugby union.
The Titans said yesterday that Lomu, 31, informed the club's management of his decision to reject their one-year offer.
Titans' managing director Michael Searle said he was disappointed but understood Lomu's decision.
"We understand and respect the business decision Jonah has made and wish him all the best in rugby and in life," he said.
The ex-All Blacks winger did not attract an offer from any of the Super 14 rugby union franchises, and met with Titans officials last week with a view to playing rugby league next year.