Manly have made their final play to retain Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran after tabling their "best offer" for the halves.
Rival clubs are circling the off-contract international playmakers. Chairman Scott Penn had signalled his intention to sign the duo before Christmas but both appear in no rush to commit as they test their value on the open market. Each could command a seven-figure sum, with the Gold Coast and Cronulla the most likely destinations should Cherry-Evans depart. The Eels are the favourites to snare Foran, although Canterbury, the Warriors and the Roosters are in the mix.
Sea Eagles officials have been in dialogue with the halves' managers for six months, although a change in the club's ownership has complicated the process. Chief executive Joe Kelly said both players had now been tabled formal offers for their consideration. "We're still progressing and doing our best to retain the both of them," Kelly said. "We're absolutely putting forward our best offers and we've made those best offers. We're working through things. With retention these days it isn't just about the salary cap and what you're paying the players, it's about a whole heap of other factors as well. We are respecting the players' time to make a decision and weigh up all the other factors as well in making a call on their future career."
Both players will carefully consider which coach can provide them the best opportunity to develop their games. Manly's clipboard holder, Geoff Toovey, has put together a fine record since taking over from Des Hasler in difficult circumstances three years ago. Yet speculation persists that Toovey, despite being under contract for a further two seasons, has lost some support at management and player level. Fairfax Media revealed Parramatta's Brad Arthur, a former Sea Eagles assistant, was a coach that some Sea Eagles powerbrokers are viewing with interest. Kelly said he has not approached Arthur about returning to the club.
"I've had no contact with Brad Arthur," Kelly said. "From where we are standing we don't know where it's coming from. We're concentrating on re-signing and retaining players. It's certainly not something we're into and the squad itself is very settled.
"[Toovey] is contracted for another two years. It was pointed out a few weeks ago that we had a robust discussion but that's just two guys wanting to take the business in the right direction.
"We have differences of opinion but these things happen in life. We're in a really good spot, the two of us together. We attended the Auckland Nines together and meet about various things every other day of the week too. We're moving forward happily together."
The facilities at home ground Brookvale Oval, as well as the some of the club's football infrastructure, are in desperate need of an upgrade. Kelly was confident progress was being made on both fronts, a key factor in retaining and recruiting players.
'We're putting resources into the footy program and everyone is delighted with ther way it's going," he said.
"We have had an under recsourced footy department forever and performed exceptionally and now we're starting to resource the footy through the ownership program."