JAMES Maloney has inexplicably walked out of the Kangaroos' World Cup camp in Canberra just hours out from their clash with France.
Maloney was reportedly driven back home to Sydney on Thursday night for "personal reasons".
It comes as the Sharks' five-eighth was again linked with a move to the Panthers in a player-swap deal with disgruntled Penrith star Matt Moylan.
Maloney's rush back to Sydney, is reportedly not related to his uncertain NRL career.
His departure from camp leaves the Kangaroos in a desperate situation ahead of their clash with France with officials unclear if Maloney will make it back to Canberra in time to play on Friday night.
The Kangaroos' back-up plan if Maloney doesn't play is for Storm playmaker Cameron Munster to move into the halfback position alongside Michael Morgan, while speedster Valentine Holmes would be promoted onto the bench.
Star halfback Cooper Cronk was informed last week that he would be rested for the game and was given permission to break from camp to deal with the announcement of his move to the Roosters.
Channel 7 reports Maloney's move is not related to his swirling contract saga.
It follows reports Maloney has secured a massive pay rise in a move to the Panthers.
His six-month fight for a pay bump has paid off with the Kangaroos playmaker set for a huge payday in his seismic move to Penrith.
The Sharks five-eighth is expected to complete a player-swap with disgruntled Penrith star Moylan in a $6 million deal, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The deal is expected to be announced as early as Monday, allowing Moylan to make an immediate move to Cronulla to play five-eighth alongside Chad Townsend.
Maloney's move to the foot of the mountains will be his sixth NRL club since his debut in 2009.
The Panthers move to sign Maloney will take pressure of rising star Nathan Cleary and boost the club's stock of playmakers if Cleary is called on to play for NSW in State of Origin next season.
According to reports, Maloney's deal is worth $2.5 million over three-years - a huge pay rise on the $500,000 per season deal he was on at Cronulla.
Maloney had threatened to walk out on the Sharks if he was not granted a pay rise after witnessing the crazy coin that was thrown around for playmakers, including Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses and Josh Reynolds, at the start of the year.
The seismic player swap was first reported on the eve of the Panthers' finals series charge following the Panthers' shock decision to grant Moylan indefinite leave.
It prompted reports Moylan has fallen out with Panthers coach Anthony Griffin over a series of minor behavioural indiscretions.
Fox League's NRL 360 host Paul Kent said during the year that Moylan was granted a leave of absence to accept that Griffin is in charge of the club - after Moylan had reportedly communicated that he felt singled out by the Penrith mentor for his dropping training standards.
Moylan was already under contract with Penrith through to the end of the 2021 season.
His new deal at Cronulla is reportedly worth $3.6 million over four years - seeing him through to the end of 2021.
The swap leaves Cronulla with a bonanza of new talent starting at the club next season with Maloney to join Kangaroos centre Josh Dugan in the Sharks' starting 13. The club has lost Jack Bird and now Maloney.
The Sharks have also been linked with a play for Roosters star Mitchell Pearce, but the club may not have salary cap space to chase the former Roosters skipper when its contract with Moylan is cleared by the NRL.
It leaves Manly as the front-runner to land the NSW halfback if he decides to officially request a release from his Roosters contract.
Stung by the Roosters' signing of Melbourne, Queensland and Australian halfback Cooper Cronk, Pearce is holidaying in Hawaii amid talk he wants out of the remaining two years of his contract at Bondi.