Bulldogs football boss Phil Gould has revealed how he fielded one phone call from an NRL club interested in acquiring Luke Thompson and a couple of weeks later it had spiralled into a completely false story splashed all over the media.
If you believe various reports that have featured in multiple outlets over the past seven days, Canterbury were looking to send Thompson to another club in a bid to get a hefty contract off their books and were willing to subsidise his salary to make it happen.
It's a story that has since been corrected to a degree, but up until now Gould, the man who would need to drive those negotiations if the Bulldogs indeed were keen to get rid of Thompson, has not been quoted about it.
He finally set the record straight in Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles with Gus podcast, revealing how a mix up between Thompson's UK-based manager and the management group acting for him in Australia had created a narrative that was "totally farcical".
It all started with an innocent phone call from an NRL club "three or four weeks ago" asking Gould if the Bulldogs were open to selling Thompson's contract to them.
Gould replied that the club would only look at it if there was a long-term deal for Thompson that would take his time in the NRL beyond his current contract with Canterbury, which expires at the end of the 2023 season.
Gould told the club to contact Thompson's manager and see if he had any appetite for such a move before the Bulldogs would give it any further consideration.
The NRL club did as instructed but once Thompson's manager got involved the scenario quickly became twisted, according to Gould.
"So that was sort of three weeks ago, and then the manager came back sort of a week ago, I can't remember the exact timeline, and said 'I've now got five clubs interested'," Gould said on Six Tackles with Gus.
"And you've got to understand how this works, because the manager's actually in the UK and he's not a registered accredited NRL agent, so he's got to use someone based here in Australia.
"So he's selected a management team here in Australia to represent Luke in this discussion with this particular NRL club and that manager has misunderstood it and gone ringing around to all NRL clubs to see if they're interested in signing Luke Thompson and of course there are people there who immediately ring the media to say that Luke Thompson's being shopped around.
"Well he's not being shopped around by the Bulldogs, we're not shopping him around, we're not trying to push Luke Thompson out of the club, we merely passed on an inquiry from one NRL club who rang us out of the blue and said 'we want to buy Luke Thompson off you'. And I said 'well if it's financially beneficial to the Bulldogs I'll have a look at it' and that's all I did, all I did was pass it on to the manager."
Gould then made it very clear that there was no way the Bulldogs were paying any of Thompson's salary and that he would only entertain moving the Test prop under fairly specific circumstances, leaving the Australia-based management team red faced.
"The management team in turn called me and apologised for creating the whole furore around it because they misinterpreted the instruction (from Thompson's UK-based manager) and felt that what they were trying to do was shop the player around to other clubs and the Bulldogs might be willing to pay some of that salary going forward, which was never ever ever ever the discussion at any point in time," Gould said emphatically.
"We weren't pushing him out the door, we certainly weren't going to contribute to any contract that he might like to consider for another club.
"We would only consider something from another club if it was very long term because he's got a really good deal at the Bulldogs anyway and we were under no pressure to remove him.
"So I said to this management team 'could you please inform the other clubs that this is wrong' and only one club ever rang us which was the initial club that made the call in the first place."
Gould added that the club that had initially sounded out Thompson had eventually made a competitive offer for him but that the Englishman had rang Gould to tell him he wanted to stay, which ultimately was all that mattered.
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"They were still interested and I think at the eleventh hour they put in a strong offer for Luke but by then Luke rang me and said 'I don't really want to go', and I said 'well good, stay', I said 'it's your career you can do what you like, we're not pushing you out, we're not offering money for clubs to take you'," Gould said.
"But the way it was being reported in the media he was being shopped around by the Bulldogs and we would contribute half his wage and we were going to do this and going to do that, which was totally farcical, absolutely farcical.
"And what do you do? Do you jump up and down about it, do you complain about it, where do you go to with these sort of things? Or if people are making fools of themselves do you just let them do it? That's the way I look at it these days and the fact I've said that now there'll be recriminations for that too."
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