The NRL has requested more information from Manly on the potentially career-ending injury to Steve Matai as the club applies for a salary cap exemption on medical grounds.
The Sea Eagles confirmed last week they had applied for medical retirement clearances for both Matai and fellow club veteran Brett Stewart, after they had failed to return to training ahead of the 2017 season.
The NRL has already rejected Stewart’s case based on his ongoing knee injury, while the probe into Matai’s neck and shoulder region is continuing as the club looks to strike his wages from the cap.
It’s understood Manly will need to point to a specific incident in which Matai sustained the current injury, and that it is separate to any ongoing issues that have plagued his career.
Complicating the case further for Manly is the fact the NRL doctor presiding over the matter is Paul Bloomfield – the same man who led Manly’s medical department between 2000 and 2012.
In that time, Matai regularly battled neck issues since he missed a large portion of the 2007 season – just three years into his first-grade career.
However he managed to play at least almost three-quarters of Manly’s games in each season after that until last year, when he was injured in round nine and never resurfaced.
Meanwhile Manly are reportedly considering appealing the NRL’s decision to reject the application for Stewart.
Stewart missed half of the 2009 and all but one game of the 2010 season when he required two separate knee surgeries while Bloomfield was at the club.
It’s understood the NRL ruled Stewart’s injuries were a case of wear and tear, and not a one-off incident such as the knee clash that ended Anthony Watmough’s career at Parramatta last year.
For an appeal to be considered the club would have to present new information to Bloomfield, before the NRL’s integrity unit make a call.
The Sea Eagles could then take the case all the way to the NRL’s appeal tribunal if they wished.
In the case of ex-Manly player Watmough last year, the league ruled in the club’s favour, however, he is yet to receive a payout from the insurance company.
All such matters are negotiated between the club and the insurers, and are separate from the NRL or their decision.