North Queensland halfback Jake Clifford is seeking an immediate release from the Cowboys to link with the Newcastle Knights with Mitchell Pearce to potentially miss the next 10 rounds because of a ruptured pec.
But Clifford's chances of being let out of the final year of his contract early may hinge on the Cowboys signing a replacement halfback. They are agitating to get off-contract Broncos halfback Tom Dearden out of Brisbane early.
Knights officials reacted quickly to Pearce's injury against the Dragons, contacting the Cowboys on Sunday night only hours after the game to push hard for Clifford's release.
He is already Newcastle-bound on a two-year-deal from next season and didn't feature for the Cowboys in the top grade last weekend after being dumped from the squad.
With Pearce, who underwent surgery on Tuesday, out for more than two months and the Knights' halfback stocks decidedly thin, the club is desperate to bring Clifford in early with both the player and his manager Paul Sutton also now pushing for an immediate exit.
The fear for the Knights if they don't get Clifford is who do they turn to if something was to happen to veteran Blake Green with Phoenix Crossland also on the injured list.
Green, who has been selected at halfback for the clash against the Titans on Saturday on the Gold Coast, is coming off a knee reconstruction at 34 and his 30 minutes against the Dragons last Sunday was his only footy in more than seven months.
The prospect of trying to bring someone else in for just this season appears unrealistic if a longer term contract is not part of the deal.
Knights head of recruitment Clint Zammit confirmed he has been in contact with the Cowboys asking about an early release for Clifford.
"We are definitely going down that avenue at the moment after what happened to Junior [Pearce] on the weekend," Zammit said.
"We left a spot open in our roster for this reason - to cover for injury. We are trying to work through a process with the Cowboys and see where it gets us and hopefully we'll know something in the next few days."
Cowboys coach Todd Payten told AAP on Tuesday releasing Clifford was not a consideration yet.
"It hasn't been considered because last week we had to get an exemption to field Griffin Neame in our 21," Payten said.
"I don't think we're going to leave ourselves short in that regard."
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