Manly fullback Brett Stewart linked to Canberra
Disgruntled Manly fullback Brett Stewart has been linked with a move to Canberra, but Warriors officials insist they are not pursuing Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai.
Stewart, Matai and Anthony Watmough have all reportedly requested releases from the remainder of their contracts with Manly after becoming disillusioned with the club's failure to table an offer for back-rower Glenn Stewart before he signed to join South Sydney next season.
While Matai has said he had an offer from the Warriors, it has been unclear which clubs were interested in Brett Stewart and Watmough but Fairfax Media has been told by separate sources close to the Sea Eagles and Raiders that Canberra was ready to make a play for Stewart if he became available.
The Raiders are also believed to have signed former Sydney Roosters utility Iosia Soliola from St Helens and Hull KR hooker Josh Hodgson but are desperate for a quality fullback to replace Brisbane-bound star Anthony Milford, and coach Ricky Stewart has a relationship with Stewart from his time in charge of the NSW Origin team.
A Manly board meeting last Wednesday night resolved not to release any player, although Fairfax Media has been told some at the club are becoming so fed up by the antics of the trio they would be happy for them to go.
However, the Warriors say they are no longer interested in Matai after being strongly linked to a four-year $650,000 per season offer for the 27-year-old former New Zealand Test centre.
It is believed the Warriors were approached three months ago and advised Matai that they would be interested if he wasn't under contract to Manly.
Since then, the Warriors have signed Canberra centre Matt Allwood and extended the contract of Konrad Hurrell, while NSW Origin forward Ryan Hoffman has also been recruited from Melbourne.
"The bottom line is that we are not chasing Steve at all," Warriors coach Andrew McFadden told New Zealand's Radio Sport.
"Earlier in the season when we were looking at all of our centre options, Steve was linked to us back then but since then we have signed Matt Allwood from Canberra and our current centres Ngani Laumape, Dane Neilsen and Konrad Hurrell are doing a good job."
Asked if Matai would be at the Warriors next season, McFadden said: "No, he won't be."
It is understood the Warriors were advised that Matai was unable to secure a release from Manly and thought that was the end of the matter, but the hard-running centre told Triple M after Monday night's match against St George Illawarra that he still wanted out next season.
As reported by Fairfax Media on Friday, the Sea Eagles want to extend the contracts of Matai and Watmough beyond the end of their current deals, which expire at the end of next season.
Watmough, who is on a back-ended deal worth more than A$970,000 next season, has been offered a new A$1.2 million two-year deal but the 31-year-old wants to be guaranteed a job with the club when he retires.
Brett Stewart has another two years to run on his contract after Manly officials agreed to the four-year deal the 29-year-old fullback wanted when he was off contract at the end of the 2012 season.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey insisted the off-field drama would not be a distraction for the competition leaders as they prepared to travel to Auckland to play the Warriors on Sunday.
"Those issues have been dealt with for the last few months and years gone past and they'll continue to be dealt with," Toovey said. "We've got a very resilient team and we'll continue to play well."