Premiership winning Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney is set to emerge as a priority recruitment target for Manly, amid continuing confusion over the futures of Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran.
Publicly, the Sea Eagles remain hopeful, rather than confident, of retaining the representative playmakers.
But with reports suggesting Foran has already committed to a future at Parramatta and Cherry-Evans fielding big money offers from both Cronulla and Gold Coast, Manly are faced with the prospect of at best losing one, at worst being without both from 2016 onwards.
Foran and Cherry-Evans will likely announce their decisions before the start of the NRL season on Thursday.
The Sea Eagles could be scrambling for a Plan B and Maloney, who is also off contract at season’s end, is set to be in the crosshairs.
The Roosters are struggling to retain Maloney given the wealth of talent they have unsigned at the end of the season.
Props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Dylan Napa are all but secured while Shaun Kenny-Dowall is also likely to be retained.
Club supremo Nick Politis is said to be keen to make Kenny-Dowall a Rooster for life, given his service to the club including his 2013 grand final heroics.
Kangaroos winger Daniel Tupou is also off contract, while Blake Ferguson has only been signed on a one-year deal.
Former NSW pivot Maloney, 28, who was part of the Roosters 2013 premiership-winning side, has already signalled his intention to test the open market.
Jackson Hastings in considered one of the NRL’s most talented up and coming playmakers and his presence at Bondi Junction would make Maloney’s departure easier to swallow.
New Manly boss Joe Kelly said at the club’s season launch that the Sea Eagles remained an attractive club for top shelf players.
“Manly is a club that is desirable to be part of and we remain confident, although realistic, of concluding these negotiations (with Foran and Cherry-Evans) favourably,” Kelly said.
“We have many great players at this club and we will continue to identify exceptional talent and build our squad to remain a force into the future.
“Rest assured if players do leave they will be replaced by world class players.”
Manly beat off a number of clubs to re-sign Steve Matai. Proof, skipper Jamie Lyon said, that Manly could keep and attract the game’s best.
“That was some great news for us, I was over the moon,” Lyon said.
“He had a few offers apparently but stayed on and I know how important he is to the team and the mateship we have.”