David Fifita dominated news cycles a couple of weeks ago when he spurned a contract option with Gold Coast and an offer from Penrith to take less money for joining Sydney Roosters from 2025.

But the back-row wrecking ball dropped an even bigger bombshell just days later, having a change of heart and backing out of the Roosters deal to remain with the Titans – leaving the Tricolours stunned and their supremo Nick Politis furious.

Fifita’s stunning about-face was the latest in rugby league’s pantheon of memorable back-flips and contract wrangles.

Dennis Tutty

Balmain backrower Tutty played a Test for Australia in 1967, but his lasting legacy to rugby league is as the player who stood up to the NSWRL and achieved greater equality for his peers. He attempted to join Penrith for the 1969 season, but the Tigers refused to place him on the transfer list.

At great personal and financial cost, Tutty chose to sit out two seasons of football while fighting for his right to change clubs – missing out on Balmain’s famous ’69 Grand Final victory – but eventually won a court case to overturn the League’s archaic transfer system.

Tutty joined the Panthers in 1971, but ironically finished his career back at Balmain in ’76 and later coached the Tigers.

Olsen Filipaina

A tug-of-war over New Zealand Test five-eighth Filipaina at the end of 1984 strained the long-standing friendship of Arthur Beetson and Jack Gibson, coaches of Eastern Suburbs and Cronulla, respectively.

The Sharks disputed the game-breaking Balmain back’s signing with Easts for ’85 on a one-year contract, claiming they had a handshake agreement with Filipaina and his manager for a two-season deal.

The feud eventually dissipated and Filipaina linked with the Roosters, but the worked out poorly – he played just eight games, another example of a Sydney club failing to nurture his prodigious talents, and represented the Kiwis from reserve grade before joining North Sydney.

Terry Hill

Teenage centre Hill became the highest-profile case study of the controversial player draft’s short lifespan.

After starring in his 1990 rookie campaign with Souths, Hill was set to join Western Suburbs the following season – until Eastern Suburbs swooped in and snapped up the exciting three-quarter in the draft, which the club was within its rights to do.

Hill initially refused to play for the Roosters, but after a drawn-out standoff he lined up for his first game in the Tricolours in Round 6 of ’91 and scored eight tries in 13 appearances.

The draft was later declared a restraint of trade, while Hill gained a release to belatedly link with the Magpies at the end of the year. A premiership winner and Test star after joining Manly, Hill tragically died of a heart attack last month.

Jim Serdaris

Former Souths hooker and Dally M Rookie of the Year Serdaris resurrected his career in Canterbury’s surge to the 1993 minor premiership, but he became entangled in a contract dispute after signing an agreement to link with battling Western Suburbs for ’94.

Serdaris attempted to renege on the deal, penning a two-year contract with the Bulldogs. But the Magpies held their ground and Serdaris eventually honoured his agreement with the club.

While Wests continued to struggle, Serdaris flourished and made the Kangaroo Tour squad at the end of 1994, before joining Manly two years later.

Henry Paul

The Auckland Warriors pegged Paul as a special talent early on, signing the teenaged fullback a couple of years before their 1995 entry to the premiership.

But after starring as captain on the Junior Kiwis’ ’93 tour of Great Britain, Paul became one of the game’s hottest properties during an off-season stint with Wakefield Trinity.

His immediate earning potential skyrocketed and he backed out of his deal with the Warriors, who eventually relented when Paul’s proposed club Wigan agreed to waive the massive transfer fee they had slapped on Auckland’s front-row recruit Andy Platt.

Paul became one of the British game’s dominant players over the next decade and played 24 Tests for the Kiwis but never tested his talents in the Australian premiership.

Ruben Wiki

Auckland product and former Junior Kiwis star Wiki was viewed as an exciting signing for the Warriors’ 1995 premiership entry, cutting his teeth in the all-star Canberra backline.

But after playing a key role in the Raiders’ 1994 title success – scoring 15 tries in 25 games as Mal Meninga’s centre partner – Wiki backed out of his contract with the Warriors to remain in the Australian capital.

A bitter and protracted dispute between the clubs played out over the summer, and it appeared ‘Two-city’ Wiki would sit out the ’95 season, until the Warriors reluctantly eased off in their pursuit of the 22-year-old.

Wiki belatedly returned home a decade later, finishing his career in 2008 after four strong seasons for the Warriors, where he is now recognised as a club legend.

Luke Lewis

Versatile Penrith star Lewis signed a rich deal with South Sydney during 2008 but would become the first high-profile player to use the NRL’s controversial ‘Round 13 rule’ to perform a contract back-flip.

The Panthers exercised their right to make a counteroffer to their charge prior to Round 13, matching the Rabbitohs’ big money (after reportedly offering him only half that amount prior to his signing with Souths) and sealing his services on a four-year extension a fortnight before the deadline.

Lewis cited a family illness as the primary reason for backing out of the Souths deal. The Test stalwart eventually sought a release from Penrith in 2012 to join Cronulla, where he went on to win a Clive Churchill Medal as a key part of the club’s 2016 premiership win.

Greg Inglis

Superstar centre Greg Inglis was the highest-profile player forced to move on from Melbourne in the wake of the club’s 2010 salary cap scandal.

The Maroons an and Kangaroos superstar announced he would be joining Brisbane, although the signing of a contract was delayed due the Storm’s refusal to release Inglis, reportedly because of legal fees he owed the club.

Inglis skipped the Broncos’ first pre-season training session in early-November, citing bad weather in Sydney as the reason, before missing the club’s deadline to sign a contract despite multiple assurances from the gun outside back.

The livid Broncos pulled their deal from the table and Inglis signed a rich deal with South Sydney a week later, eventually spearheaded the end of the Rabbitohs’ 43-year premiership drought in 2014.

Tim Moltzen

Wests Tigers utility back Tim Moltzen briefly became the NRL’s most maligned player in 2011 after reneging on a three-year contract he signed with St George Illawarra.

The Dragons trumpeted Moltzen’s acquisition mid-season, but at the end of the year the Tigers’ hierarchy stated he had never been formally released from his contract with the joint venture.

Moltzen wanted to stay put, and after much deliberation between the clubs and the NRL, the Saints announced in November they would not be seeking registration of his contract. His career quickly petered out due to a series of serious injuries, playing his last top-grade game in 2013.

Josh Papalii

Burgeoning Canberra back-rower Josh Papalii signed a healthy three-year deal at the beginning of 2013 to join struggling Parramatta at the end of the season.

But the deal had wriggle room, with the Raiders having until the halfway point of the season to make a counteroffer, and Papalii got cold feet about his impending move to Sydney.

The 20-year-old signed a three-season extension with the Raiders of the eve of the 2013 campaign, incensing Parramatta fans, officials and coach Ricky Stuart.

Papalii went on to debut for Queensland and Australia that season, and in an ironic twist, he played under Stuart from 2014 after the coach controversially quit the Eels to take over at Canberra.

The champion forward is closing in on 300 games for the Raiders and has team up with ‘Sticky’ for 11 seasons.

Andrew Fifita

Former Tigers prop Fifita exploded during 2013, his second season with Cronulla, breaking into the NSW and Australian teams and featuring in the Kangaroos’ World Cup final win.

Early in 2014, the 24-year-old signed a four-year contract with Canterbury worth $800,000 a season. But less than three weeks later, the Bulldogs terminated the deal “given the final terms of the NRL Playing Contract could not be agreed”.

The Bulldogs were reportedly upset about public comments from Fifita suggesting he wished he’d switched to rugby union instead and that his heart remained with Cronulla.

The frequently controversial Fifita later signed a four-year extension with the Sharks, played a huge role in their 2016 premiership and retired in 2022 after more than 200 NRL games for the club.

James Tedesco

One of the game’s most sought-after young players after putting some injury setbacks behind, Tigers fullback Tedesco signed a three-year deal to join Canberra from 2015. But a week later the quicksilver tyro had a change of heart and bailed on the contract to remain with the joint venture.

Less than a month later, Tedesco suffered a season-ending fractured patella playing against the Raiders. He spent three more years with the Tigers before making a career-defining move to the Roosters.

Daly Cherry-Evans

Perhaps the most infamous contract back-flip of all time. Manly premiership winner, and Test and Origin rep Cherry-Evans announced in March 2015 that he would be heading to Gold Coast on a four-year deal from the following season – arguably the biggest signing in the Titans’ history.

But DCE reneged on the agreement in June, prior to the Round 13 cooling-off period expiring, to instead ink an eight-year extension with the Sea Eagles worth more than $1 million a season.

His subsequent comments fanned the flames of public backlash: “I definitely left the door open for this speculation to continue because, to be honest, I was always curious to know what offer was going to be on the table from Manly.”

Queenslander Cherry-Evans became persona non grata in his home state, a status that took several years – and some unlikely Origin series wins as skipper – to subside.

Toby Rudolf

Stranded in COVID-19 purgatory during 2020, the Warriors received a much-needed boost in the form of a three-year deal accepted by rookie Cronulla forward Rudolf.

But as the season wore on, Rudolf’s stocks skyrocketed and by July he had signalled his intentions to renege and remain with the Sharks. He cited family reasons and the Warriors graciously allowed him to back out.

In a cruel twist, Rudolf scored his first NRL try at the Warriors’ expense a couple of weeks after the contract somersault was confirmed, ending the embattled club’s spirited late bid for an unlikely finals berth.