The Manly Sea Eagles are unlikely to have to shed players, but won't be able to attract new ones, after being hit with a breach notice by the NRL for salary cap infringements over the past five years.
NRL.com understands the Sea Eagles, who have close to $500,000 left in next year's salary cap, will have most of their available funds wiped if the NRL adjusts the club's salary cap to include alleged illegal third party payments made since 2013.
It means the Sea Eagles, who chased Mitchell Pearce as a replacement for Blake Green's move to the New Zealand Warriors, are unlikely to be able to lure Trent Hodkinson or any other established playmaker to the club in 2018.
Two unnamed NRL club officials, who have or still work for Manly, have been handed show cause notices and will be required to provide information as to why the governing body should not cancel their registrations.
The Sea Eagles don't face the prospect of starting next season on negative points.
If the NRL's preliminary findings are confirmed, the Sea Eagles will be hit with a substantial fine but the not in the realm of previous salary cap breaches made by the Parramatta Eels, Melbourne Storm or Canterbury Bulldogs, which were in excess of $1 million.
The club and both officials have been provided with opportunities to assist the NRL during this investigation, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said in a statement.
In accordance with NRL rules, the parties have been given five days to respond to the breach notices but, given the seriousness of the allegations, the NRL would consider a request for an extension of time, Greenberg stated.
Earlier on Monday, before the sanctions were handed down, Manly coach Trent Barrett conceded the Sea Eagles had taken a risk on releasing Green.
"It was a situation where Blake had a really good offer to go elsewhere," Barrett told NRL.com. "Regardless of what happened, we would have liked Blake to stay. But we understood where he was coming from.
"In the end it dragged on and on and got a little difficult. So we took a punt to let Blake go before we had a replacement, but it's also a punt to keep a player here who doesn't want to be here."
Enter Hodkinson, who has one year left on his Newcastle deal, and would not be keen to spend 2018 in the NSW Cup since the Knights are now top-heavy with halves, including new signings Pearce and Connor Watson alongside local junior Brock Lamb. A nagging knee injury last season was also lingering as a reason he was out of favour in the Hunter. Former Dally M winner, Cronulla, Sydney Roosters and Canberra halfback Todd Carney has also been mentioned in dispatches for Manly's No.6 vacancy.
Barrett said he had spoken to Hodkinson, but ruled out making a play for Todd Carney.
"I have spoken to Trent," Barrett said. "His knees aren't as big a concern as everyone thinks. He's a terrific fellow and he's a goal-kicker and a really good organiser.
"Todd on the other hand, no we haven't spoken to him. But we'll just sit back and sort a few things out because it needs to be the right decision for us."
Barrett also has eyes on new Raiders signing Lachlan Croker, nephew of 300-game Canberra player Jason Croker, along with Jackson Hastings.
"Lachie and Jackson have been slotting in there and going very well. We are still keeping an eye on things for another option, but more than happy with the way the two young guys are going at the moment," he said.
"They are both out-and-out halves so we're certainly not revisiting the 2016 situation where we did have to try a find a No.6 We had Dylan (Walker) in there, Api Koroisau and Jamie Lyon. As a team we've come along a lot further than what we were in 2016. It's a completely different side. The stability in the group is chalk and cheese to what it was two years ago."
"We've also made Lachie and Jackson aware of that and the reasons behind it – that we need depth in that area.
"Lachlan or Jackson could jump up and cement a spot for Round 1, that's up to them."