The playing futures of veteran Manly stars Brett Stewart and Steve Matai appear even bleaker, with the duo not named by their club for the NRL’s season guide or on the team’s official website.
The pair, who have each won two premierships with the Sea Eagles, are struggling with neck and knee injuries respectively and battling to be any chance of playing top grade again.
The Sea Eagles’ top squad of players, as provided by the club last month to the NRL’s official magazine Big League, does not feature Stewart or Matai.
The squad is meant to represent each club’s top 25 players, as per the salary cap, however it should be noted players outside the group cannot play this season.
It’s understood clubs are asked to meet a mid-January deadline for the list to meet print dates.
Given the uncertainty over the pair’s future at the time, Manly only opted to put 24 names forward, as opposed to the 25 offered by all other clubs.
As of Wednesday evening, the two were also missing from the club’s list 30 of players on their official team website.
Matai and Stewart, who have scored 254 tries between them in 462 games, are yet to return to proper training just a month out from the club’s opening-round clash with Parramatta.
It has allowed the club to prepare as if the duo won’t be there this season.
Tom Trbojevic will slot in at fullback for this weekend’s trial against South Sydney and former Gold Coast junior Brian Kelly is partnering Dylan Walker in the centres.
Stewart or Matai are each signed to the end of the year, and the club – who are desperate to see them finish with the respect they believe they deserve – would need to show to the NRL that their injuries are not pre-existing prior to their re-signings to have their wages not counted in the season’s salary cap.
Matai has not played for Manly since round nine last year, while Stewart missed the final 10 weeks of the 2016 season with his knee injury.