IN normal circumstances, Newcastle Knights fans would be celebrating one of the most important recruitment coups in their club's history.
But the announcement of Tyson Frizell's three-season deal with Newcastle could hardly have been more awkwardly timed.
The news comes just days after Knights officials stood down dozens of employees, some of them on unpaid leave, after the NRL's decision to suspend the season because of the coronavirus crisis.
And at a time when Knights players are pondering huge pay cuts - allegedly as much as 87 per cent of their income - the club reportedly has the funds to offer Frizell $700,000 a season.
Whether the contract is approved by the NRL, amid speculation that the salary cap will be slashed next season, remains to be seen.
As the Knights admitted in the brief statement on their website yesterday: "Due to the current uncertain circumstances for rugby league, the NRL are not registering any new or updated contracts.
"The club has and always will act in good faith in relation to contracts."
Frizell, the St George Illawarra back-rower who has played in 14 Tests for Australia and 11 Origins for NSW, confirmed on Instagram his intention to link with Newcastle in 2021.
"In regards to news of my recent signing with the Newcastle Knights, I have signed and agreed to terms," he wrote.
"Due to the current circumstances it has not been registered with the NRL. As an individual, family, community and as a game, there are more pressing priorities at the moment.
"So with respect to the media and fans I would like to make no further comments on my contract until a appropriate time."
The Dragons released a statement on their website, quoting director of rugby league pathways and list management Ian Millward.
"Tyson Frizell received one of the most substantial offers in St George Illawarra history to remain at the club beyond the 2020 season," Millward said.
"It was a deal that reflected his contribution over the past eight years, and of course, the seasons that would have followed. We made responsible decisions when determining Tyson's value and contract extension.
"Tyson's decision to depart the Dragons at season's end will now allow the club to pursue other quality players in the marketplace."
Frizell's St George Illawarra teammate James Graham said on Fox League Mornings that "if he's choosing Newcastle over St George, then it's disappointing".
Frizell has played most of his representative career alongside Knights prop David Klemmer, who said last month: "He'll love it up here. He'll have a great bunch of fellas up here and great culture we're building up here. I'll let the powers that be control that. But we'd love to have him up here."