For real this time.
For real this time.
MANLY have secretly signed their former champion forward Ben Kennedy on a $3 contract as an insurance policy against injuries in the run home to the finals.
Sea Eagles CEO Grant Mayer registered the contract with the NRL last night, paving the way for the club legend to make a comeback at any time.
The money is a far cry from the $400,000-a-season he commanded only last year when he was widely regarded as the best and most damaging forward in the NRL.
Mayer told The Daily Telegraph last night that coach Des Hasler had done the deal with Kennedy after weeks of discussions.
\"Ben told Des he still misses Manly dearly and would love to play again,\" Mayer said, \"They've been talking about it for a long time.
\"He basically said to Des, 'If you're struggling with injuries at any time, don't forget about me'.\"
Mayer said Kennedy had kept himself in great shape since retiring at the end of last season.
\"He hasn't trained a lot but he still looks great,\" Mayer said.
\"I guess you'd have to say it's a 1000/1 chance that he'd play but you never know what can happen in this game. It's fantastic security for us to know he's there as such a great fall-back option.\"
Hasler said: \"Ben's the sort of bloke who could do it, even after a long absence.
\"But to be honest, it's unlikely. I've got great back-rowers already and I've got great depth.
\"It's a nice safety guard. We've been discussing it for a while actually. It's been quite funny. Ben wanted a $5 deal, I said $1, so we met halfway. Seriously, how loyal is the bloke? He'd come back for sure if we needed him.
\"It's all very hypothetical at this stage but who knows what's going to happen down the track?\"
Mayer faxed the contract to the NRL's salary cap auditor Ian Schubert late yesterday, just 48 hours before the deadline.
It is a similar move to that of the Melbourne Storm, whose coach Craig Bellamy signed retired forward Robbie Kearns to a $2 contract last year in case he was needed for the finals.
Kennedy would not accept phone calls last night, but told one club official: 'I still love the club, I love all the players and always will. I'm still very loyal to them. If they need me I'm there.\"
NRL boss David Gallop confirmed the contract had been registered last night.
\"It's a legitimate contract and it's been done before with Melbourne,\" Gallop said.
\"Any match payments he earns would go into their cap for next year.\"
Kennedy may initially struggle if he returns from a nine-month break but one source had no doubt he would be capable of again holding his own in the NRL.
\"Lots of players spend nine months on the sidelines with injuries and come back,\" one Manly official said. \"A lot of people think Ben retired one year too early, anyway.\"