Manly coach Trent Barrett is optimistic fans haven’t seen the last of Brett Stewart this season but whether the Sea Eagles great stays in the NRL next year remains to be seen.
Stewart will undergo knee surgery next week in a procedure that will rule him out of action for about six weeks.
Barrett is confident the 31-year-old will be able to return at the tail end of the season.
But he wasn’t prepared on Friday to make any bold predictions when asked whether Stewart was likely to see out the final year of his contract in 2017.
“It hasn’t been discussed,” Barrett said.
“He’s contracted for another year, he’s very important to us when he’s fully fit and that’s our main focus.
“I’m hoping he makes a full recovery. He’s a fantastic player and a club legend at Manly. We’ll just cross our fingers that he comes good.”
Stewart has struggled to hit anywhere close to top form this season, with reports suggesting he’ll switch to the Super League at the end of the season to accommodate the rise of gun youngster Tom Trbojevic.
Barrett said Stewart’s hopes of playing again this season rest with what the surgeon discovers.
“It’s probably the fourth or fifth operation he’s had on his knee,” Barrett said.
“They’re saying six weeks at the moment but we’re hoping he comes good. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Manly (5-11) will be aiming to keep their slim finals hopes alive when they take on the seventh-placed NZ Warriors at Perth’s nib Stadium on Saturday.
The Warriors have lost all seven of their matches in Perth but coach Andrew McFadden said he wouldn’t be using the travel factor as an excuse.
“The opposition has to travel as well. It’s a little bit further for us but it’s no excuse,” McFadden said.
“We haven’t played that well in the last couple of years.”
Manly will also play a home match in Perth in 2017 and 2018 as part of a three-year deal.
Rugby league’s presence in Perth is set to grow over the coming years.
Australia will face off against New Zealand in a Test match in Perth in October, while Game 2 of the 2019 State of Origin series will be played at the new Perth Stadium.