Canterbury CEO Todd Greenberg has defended his club's clandestine meeting with in-demand Cowboys half-back Johnathan Thurston, saying secret dealings are part of the business.
Thurston, who is off contract at the end of 2013, was photographed leaving Bulldogs headquarters following a meeting with his manager Sam Ayoub and Canterbury coach Des Hasler late on Wednesday evening.
Thurston toured the club's impressive training facilities at Belmore and spoke to Hasler about the Dogs' long-term plans.
The champion playmaker began his NRL career at Canterbury, playing in the club's 2004 premiership win before departing for North Queensland the following year.
It's understood he is keen to return to Sydney and play out his career.
He will command around $1m per season in his next deal.
The Bulldogs are angry their secret meeting was leaked to the media but have dismissed claims they were being sneaky in luring Thurston to Sydney under the cover of darkness.
Greenberg tweeted on Thursday: "We make no apologies for engaging with off contract marquee players in order to improve our club on & off the field. All part of the job.
"We always prefer to keep our recruitment & retention behind closed doors but understand that it's difficult with strong media interest."
Several clubs are chasing Thurston but the Bulldogs have been by far the most aggressive.
They have the cash and, in Hasler, a high profile, successful and persuasive coach.
St George Illawarra, Parramatta and Brisbane are also in the hunt for the decorated No.7 while the Cowboys hold out hope their captain will stay.