Manly are waiting on the NRL Appeals Committee to make its decision on salary cap breaches at the club but coach Trent Barrett is ready to move to try to plug the holes in his roster.
As Barrett prepared his men with a training session at Lottoland on Thursday for Friday night's round eight match against Newcastle, he said he saw some light at the end of the tunnel for his battered and bruised club.
Former Wests Tigers and Canterbury centre/winger Moses Suli and hooker Manase Fainu, who captained the Sea Eagles NYC Holden Cup side to a premiership last year, are two players that Barrett could be expected to elevate to the NRL side.
But he's taking a more cautious approach – perhaps to ensure team harmony is uppermost in any recruitment decisions following the personality upheavals with utility Jackson Hastings.
"We've got to be smart about how we do it," Barrett said on Thursday.
"We've got a few kids in there – Moses Suli for example, who will be ready to play first grade soon. He's going really well."
Suli played 16 NRL games for the Tigers in 2017. But training commitment and other off-field issues resulted in him being let go at Concord and then again at Belmore before the 2018 Telstra Premiership season kicked off.
"Young Manase is a good young player too," he said of the No.9 who played in Manly's trial games in February.
Sea Eagles v Knights - Round 8
"They are in the development list but I don't want to fill the spots in our top cap until we definitely know where we're going to need the players.
"We've got a few options there but we've got to be smarter about how we use the spots."
Barrett did say that his NRL squad was now down to "21 or 22". Hastings has been relegated to Intrust Premiership Cup; retired former Test forward Nate Myles remains on the club's books for this year; forwards Curtis Sironen and Kelepi Tanginoa have been ruled out for the season with knee problems; wingers Jorge Taufua and Brad Parker are also injured.
"We're down to the bare minimum," Barrett said. "We've still got some room to move. We've got a couple of spots there available. The cap stuff is still in the appeal process. So once we get a little more clarity on that we might be able to go and buy a few more players, bring a few more players in."
Club bank accounts were swelled slightly last week with five players fined – captain Daly Cherry-Evans $10,000 and four unnamed players $1500 each – for breaking team curfew in the round-five match against Gold Coast.
That was the first of three straight losses. Barrett and the players held a team meeting this week to turn things around.
"We'd like to think everything is done and dusted so we can start concentrating on the footy," Barrett said.
Barrett: We are down to the bare minimum
"It has been a really challenging week for the players and the staff and the club as a whole. The best response we can have is to come out and play well.
"We've been in a bit of a hole the last few weeks.
"It's been tough on the players but through tough times you find a lot about each other and the group has come together. I expect to see it tomorrow."
The club's last home game in round six resulted in the Lottoland faithful booing Manly players from the field during a 38-12 loss to the Tigers.
"The payers definitely need the fans' support," Barrett said Thursday. "I understand the fans' frustration.
"But I guarantee our fans that the players are in it for each other and in for the right reasons And they are working really hard to get ourselves out of it.