Manly Sea Eagles set to offer stars big paydays
Manly are on the verge of offering disgruntled duo Anthony Watmough and Steve Matai contract extensions that would keep them at the club for the rest of their careers as teammate Kieran Foran has broken ranks and declared there are multiple "issues" engulfing the competition leaders.
It is understood preliminary discussions with Watmough have begun - the representative back-rower is set to be offered a A$1.2 million (NZ$1.32 million) two-year extension on his deal, which expires next year. Watmough, 31, has also sounded out post-career opportunities to remain with the club when he retires.
Matai has already had his requests to join the Warriors denied. Manly now want to extend his contract, which ends next year.
There have been reports a player split has emerged at the Sea Eagles following news of Glenn Stewart's departure at the end of the year. This led to suggestions Watmough and Brett Stewart could follow Matai's lead in wanting to leave the club.
Foran said Matai deserved to be released from the final year of his deal to join the Warriors on a lucrative contract. He also took aim at the club's management.
"I think the club underestimated Glenn Stewart's departure," Foran said. "We said all along that 'Gift' [Stewart] was a massive part of building this culture here. As players, we felt that he deserved a contract put in front of him. I guess as all the boys are mates with him [they] are disappointed.
"I can't really comment on individual situations. I guess the underlying fact is there are issues that need to be sorted.
"I'm not too sure [if the playing group will be split next year]. Everyone is contracted until the end of next year and others beyond that. We'll just have to wait and see.
"I believe there are issues higher up than just the playing group."
The Manly board moved on Wednesday night to assure Sea Eagles fans that it "fully supported" the honouring of contracts, declaring it would not grant any requests for early releases from the NRL club.
Foran said he understood that salary cap restrictions could have forced the club's hand but wasn't sure if that was the sole reason for Stewart's departure.
"I understand that," he said. "It always forces players out. It happens at every club. Whether or not that was the reason he was forced out I'm not too sure.
"I think in Stevie's situation I believe he has taken unders for a lot of a years now to stay at this club. If he can now set his family up and get a big money contract elsewhere, then the club should assess it.
"I know there have been a lot of boys that have [taken less money to stay]. There's been a lot of sacrifices from a lot of those older and senior boys to keep the group together."
Teammate Daly Cherry-Evans - who is expected to command about A$1 million per season when his deal expires at the end of next year - said he backed the club's stance on not releasing players.
"That's great," Cherry-Evans said. "We've got a great roster. There is no secret in the success this side has had. To keep everyone involved for as long as possible that's great.
"I'm very happy [here]. There's been adversity in this club for a long time but we always find a way to get out the other end. This is just another speed bump in the club. We'll continue to move forward and continue to go out there and be successful in the field, which is what matters most."
The Warriors host Manly on Sunday.
Sydney Morning Herald