Premiership-winning forward Sam Tagataese says reports linking him with a move to Manly in 2018 caught him by surprise but concedes there is every chance he'll be forced out of the Shire at the end of the season with competition for spots at an all-time high.
The Sea Eagles went to extraordinary lengths to shut down the speculation, releasing a statement that said they were "completely mystified as to the source of the story" and that they hadn't engaged in any discussions with Tagataese's manager.
However, the 30-year-old, who is off contract at the end of the year, contacted his manager about the story and was told the Sea Eagles were in fact interested but nothing official had been tabled.
"It was the first I'd heart [of it] to be honest," Tagataese said.
"I called my manager up and he said they are interested but didn't know how that came about so at this stage it's still news to me. If something comes up then I'm sure my manager will notify me.
"Nothing has come up yet so hopefully I get to play some more first grade coming up and get something sorted out after that."
The powerful utility forward would like to stay at the Sharks beyond 2017 but understands there's a strong likelihood that he may have to look elsewhere to extend his career in first grade.
Having played in the 2016 grand final win over one of his former sides, the Storm, Tagataese has been limited to just 10 appearances this season – eight of those from the bench – and admitted it was frustrating being stuck behind a quality pack when he still has so much to offer.
"It is frustrating," he replied when asked about his lack of game time.
"With the team that we've got, players have been playing well and the demand of performance does play a part. We've got great depth in our team and everyone is keeping everyone else accountable so whoever plays, you know they pretty much have to play to their best or else someone else might come in and take their spot.
"It'd be great to stay here but I understand a new breed of players is coming in and there are salary cap issues as well. It'd be awesome to stay, but if they don't have the capacity to keep me here then I might have to look elsewhere.
"At this stage I'm just trying to play some good footy and hopefully get noticed again."