Long-term pain: How Sea Eagles avoided losing points

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles avoided being stripped of premiership points because of the club’s decision to release five-eighth Blake Green to the Warriors without signing a replacement.

However, the Sea Eagles' hopes of recruiting an established playmaker next season will be severely hamstrung by the NRL’s decision to force them to play the remainder of this season and the 2019 Telstra Premiership with a roster valued at $330,000 less than the other 15 clubs.

The penalty has the potential to affect Manly's premiership hopes for years to come.

Unlike the Parramatta Eels in 2016, the Sea Eagles escaped the loss of competition points for breaches totalling $1.5 million over five years as they had not exceeded the NRL’s salary cap for this season.

The Sea Eagles had been keen to sign Mitchell Pearce in December and Trent Hodkinson earlier this month but did not table an offer to either player while they awaited the outcome of an appeal against the findings of the NRL’s salary cap investigation.

As a result, the Sea Eagles were already operating below their revised salary cap for 2018 and 2019 and do not need to restructure their roster.

In comparison, the Eels were $570,000 over the salary cap in 2016 when docked 12 competition points for repeated breaches and forced to release Nathan Peats, Junior Paulo and Ryan Morgan, while Anthony Watmough was taken off their cap after retiring due to injury.

Some changes are expected, as the Sea Eagles must have 30 registered players by June 30 and they are two short after being given dispensation to include former prop Nate Myles because the club is still paying him.

The imminent departure of forward Darcy Lussick to the Super League after being told he would not be offered a new contract is set to enable the Sea Eagles to replace him with two players on the NRL’s minimum wage of $85,000 to fulfil their roster requirements.

However, the salary cap penalty may cause more significant problems for the Sea Eagles next season as they have a further 11 players coming off contract, including hooker Apisai Koroisau, centre Brian Kelly, forwards Curtis Sironen, Shaun Lane and Lewis Brown, and rookie five-eighth Lachlan Croker.

Manly coach Trent Barrett admitted on Monday night the penalty of playing with a reduced salary cap would have a significant impact on his ability to build a strong roster. 

"Things like this will take years to recover from," Barrett told Fox Sports NRL 360 program.

"The money that we have left in the cap for this year and the money we were banking on having next year, players that we might want to target, everything has pretty much been put on hold.

"Your roster management and you your salary cap is a big part of professional sport, and if you get it wrong it can hurt you.

"It doesn’t just hurt you for six or 12 months, it hurts you for five years."

A seven-month investigation after the Sea Eagles invited the NRL integrity unit to conduct a forensic audit of their salary cap found the club had been illegally using third-party agreements to entice players to sign over a five-year period.

Up to 15 players were provided with third-party agreements which were allegedly organised by the club but not declared to the NRL salary cap auditor.

However, the most significant of the breaches are alleged to have occurred over a three-year period and involved third-party deals for five players – none of whom are still with the club.

It is understood some of the third-party agreements in question were for the use of motor vehicles which were not declared, while others involved players being offered a remuneration package which was less than the amount lodged with the NRL.

Under NRL rules, third-party agreements must be registered and approved to ensure they do not become a way for clubs or players to undermine the salary cap.

As an example, it is illegal for a club to include a third-party deal worth $50,000 in an offer of $320,000 per season for a player but register a $270,000 contract, excluding the amount of the TPA, with the NRL.

There are provisions for club sponsors to enter into agreements with elite players under the Marquee Player Agreement allowance, which is capped at $600,000 per club.