THE Newcastle Jets are prepared to play hardball with footballer-turned-rapper-turned-footballer Joe Champness.
Champness dropped a bombshell on Friday when he accepted a one-year offer from the Brisbane Roar despite the Jets believing the attacker had a three-year contract in the Hunter.
The silken-skilled winger had agreed to the extension before jetting off to Los Angeles 14-months ago to pursue a hip-hop career.
The 23-year-old, who performs under the name JOWIC, returned to Australia in May after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"We lodged the three-year extension with the FFA. It's registered," Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said.
Before departing for Los Angeles Champness said: I've got a lot of love for the Newcastle Jets ... I'm contracted there for the next three years, so it's an honour to be given that sort of opportunity and trust from the club in that sense as well."
However, Champness has since had a change of tune.
The sticking point is a clause which stipulated that if Champness did not return to football before the end of May that he would be released from the contract, but the Jets would have first right of refusal on his services if he returns to the A-League.
"The clause says that the Jets get first option," McKinna said. "We have not been given that option. We are speaking with FFA to determine what is the next step."
Champness - a Roar youth player prior to moving to the Jets - made his A-League debut in the opening round of the 2017-18 season and was an integral part of Newcastle's drive to the grand final.
A foot injury restricted the attacker to nine appearances in 2018-19 but he was shaping as a key part of the Olyroos' Tokyo campaign before his hip-hop sabbatical.
The Jets left a spot open for Champness and McKinna was in regular contact during his stint in the US and continued the dialogue on the player's return to Brisbane.
Champness did not return calls and text messages from the Newcastle Herald on Monday but told the Sydney Morning Herald that he informed McKinna last month that he had "made the call to resume his A-League career and to let him know Brisbane had made an offer".
McKinna maintains that the Jets "have a binding contract and haven't been given the first right of refusal".
It is unclear if Brisbane were aware of Champness' commitment to the Jets when they started talks.
"We are not fighting with Brisbane," McKinna said. "But we have signed deal that is lodged with FFA."
A Brisbane spokesman said contract discussions were confidential.
The players union did not return messages or an email from the Newcastle Herald but are understood to have been enlisted to mediate the matter.
"The PFA are aware of the situation," McKinna said. "They gave us the wording for the option."
The Jets would benefit from Champness' pace and eye for goal after the off-season departures of Dimi Petratos (Saudi Arabia), Abdiel Arroyo (Israel) and Wes Hoolahan (England).
The squad will assemble for pre-season training in the next fortnight.