Manly Warringah Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett has acknowledged difficult decisions need to be made this year, with players likely to be shed from his roster due to the NRL's penalties for salary cap breaches.
Despite Barrett's best intentions to shield his players from the fallout of the $750,000 fine and $660,000 in cap deductions over 2018-19 announced on Monday, he has 12 players off contract at the end of this year – seven are in the 17 he named to face the Canberra Raiders at Lottoland on Saturday.
"We've spoken as a group about it and we'll do our best to keep them informed about what’s going on," Barrett said on Friday.
"As I understand it the club did lodge an appeal last night (Thursday) so who knows what's going to happen.
"The players I've got in the room now are here to do a job. As I said they're professionals and we'll keep them in the loop as much as we can.
"I'd love to be able to keep all of them but what happens over the next few weeks will determine what we've got this year and what we've got next year."
Experienced prop Darcy Lussick is in the final stages of negotiations to move to Super League – reportedly the Toronto Wolfpack or Leeds Rhinos.
"Look, I'm not sure where that's at. It surfaced a couple of weeks ago," Barrett said. "But as it stands Darcy will be here and he's going to play this weekend – for Blacktown (Workers Sea Eagles) on Saturday."
Another in line for Manly's Intrust Super Premiership NSW feeder club is 19-year-old Moses Suli, who has switched from the Wests Tigers to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in the off-season before linking with the Sea Eagles earlier this month.
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Suli has documented off-field issues but Barrett is willing to invest time in the youngster.
"He's going well and we're expecting Moses to be available to play next week. So he'll play for Blacktown next weekend," Barrett said, as Suli was put through some sprint drills on his own with a trainer in the background at Lottoland on Friday.
"He's been really good. He hasn't missed a beat. He's done everything we've asked of him.
"He's a lovely kid and I'm really happy for him. He's put himself in this position to get back on the field.
"He came over and saw us and I think you can always see when there's good in a person and I certainly see a lot of good in Moses. He's got some close friends here at the club.
"I just saw something there that he wasn't a write-off and I was willing to give him a chance. He's been a pleasure. He hasn't rocked the boat at all. He's got the full support of the blokes inside (dressing room) which is the main thing."
I'd love to be able to keep all of them but what happens over the next few weeks will determine what we've got this year and what we've got next year.Trent Barrett
While Lussick and Suli aren't a part of the squad to play the Raiders, Barrett quashed speculation that Api Koroisau would slot into the No.6 jersey at Lachlan Croker's expense, with Jackson Hastings coming off the bench to start at No.9.
"I don't know where that's come from. Crokes didn't train on Tuesday because of the HIA (head injury assessment) and that’s how we rolled. But that (switch) won't be happening," he said.
"Crokes will definitely play (five-eighth) and there has definitely been no contemplation or thought about anything else."
There has been, however, an edict issued by Barrett that the Sea Eagles need to respond to the 34-6 thumping by the South Sydney Rabbitohs last round.
"They are never pretty. We're embarrassed about it. They've fronted up and owned what we tossed up last week. That was a product of all of us last week, and none of us were happy with it," Barrett said, adding he didn't think there was complacency after Manly enjoyed a drubbing of their own beating Parramatta 54-0 in round two.
Dylan Walker is two weeks away after off-season surgeries on his ankle and shoulder.