It could be the end of an era at Manly, with coach Trent Barrett admitting he’s unsure if injured veterans Brett Stewart and Steve Matai will remain next NRL season.
On the same day captain Jamie Lyon confirmed he’s likely played his last game due to injury, Barrett could not guarantee comebacks for both Stewart and Matai in 2017.
Stewart, 31, hasn’t played since his season was cut short due to a knee injury in round 16, while Matai, 32, underwent surgery in April on a troublesome neck problem.
“I don’t think we’re 100 per cent confident that they’ll recover,” Barrett said on Tuesday.
With 34-year-old Lyon retiring this season, the experienced duo are the last remaining links to the Sea Eagles’ 2008 premiership and only Daly-Cherry-Evans and Jamie Buhrer also remain from the 2011 title decider.
Barrett remained hopeful that the pair, who both have one year remaining on their contracts, would recover for next year.
“We’ve certainly got our fingers crossed they do, because they are very important parts of our team,” he said.
“It has been a frustrating year for the both of them, but we’d hate to lose more senior players at this stage.
“Losing our captain’s going to be tough enough. Hopefully they can get through.”
Stewart’s future has been under a cloud for some time, particularly after the emergence of young star Tom Trbojevic at fullback over the past seven weeks.
His shift to the No.1 coincided with a four-game winning streak that momentarily kept their finals hopes alive, before the side lost its past three games to crash out of contention.
Stewart’s possible exit, along with Matai’s could ease some pressure off the club’s salary cap.
“It’s something that we’ve got to deal with,” Barrett said.
“It’s certainly not the boys’ fault. But we can work around a few different scenarios for next year.
“It’s going okay. We’ve just got to hope the the pair of them come good.”