Manly have a large percentage of their roster off contract in 2019 but coach Des Hasler believes having squad members playing for contracts will work in the club's favour.
As the 58-year-old prepares to return to Lottoland on Saturday night for the first time as the home coach after an eight-year absence, he is tasked with restoring the good name of Manly and the harsh reception the home ground gives to oppositions.
He doesn't mind that internal wrangling for spots as it will stoke the fire of making the Sea Eagles more competitive this year.
Hasler's last game at the Brookvale venue as Manly coach was on August 26, 2011, when his side beat Melbourne Storm 18-4 on their way to winning the club's eighth first-grade premiership.
"Definitely I can tell you now that the Manly club will be competitive now in all aspects," Hasler said on Friday as his team prepared to meet premiers Sydney Roosters.
He had earlier on Thursday told the Big Sports Breakfast radio program he didn't see his second coming at Manly as a rebuild.
Sea Eagles v Roosters - Round 2
"You've got to take it in context when you're talking about a rebuild. The way I took the question on radio as an excuse not to be competitive," he said at his Lottoland media conference.
"From that aspect we have three internationals sitting on the sideline at the moment," he said, referring to suspended duo Addin Fonua-Blake and Dylan Walker, and injured fullback Tom Trbojevic.
"I just wanted to make the point that we can be very competitive any day of the week."
Having players like the entire back five playing the Roosters on Saturday - Brendan Elliot, Moses Suli, Jorge Taufua, Brad Parker, and Reuben Garrick - along with forwards Curtis Sironen, Jack Gosiewski and Joel Thompson off contract at the end of the year means many at Manly are playing for their livelihood.
"Well that's a good thing, a good sign. If you put it in context it probably looks like a rebuild ... but the other aspect of course is that rosters evolve and change all the time."
The competition landscape is also in for a revamp over the next five years as the NRL will have a new television and broadcast rights deal to start in 2023. CEO Todd Greenberg has put expansion and relocation on the table as options.
Manly will complete their $660,000 salary cap penalty in 2019, giving them stronger purchasing power for 2020.
Walker's future is unclear as domestic violence charges against the off-contract centre continue in the NSW courts.
NRL.com reported on Friday that Manly were looking at asking the NRL for salary cap relief as he is unavailable due to the no-fault stand down rule.
But the wider question of whether Manly, as one of the NRL's financially troubled clubs, will be forced to relocate also hangs in the air.
Hasler maintains the club is going nowhere.
"It could get a little argy bargy by the time it (debate) comes around ... emotionally if they tear the joint down. If the club was to relocate, over the past two decades it has had enormous success on the field," Hasler said.
"It has a proud history. Geographically it is set pretty well given the fact there's nothing between here and Newcastle. So it's an interesting conversation … and with the grant exceeding the [salary] cap obviously the NRL – from the outside – is looking to put pressure on clubs to perform in all aspects."
But that's a deeper discussion much further down the track. More immediately and the Sea Eagles are 0-1 after losing to the Tigers 20-6 at Leichhardt in round one.
Toovey and Kimmorley back expansion
Lottoland did look a picture on Friday as groundsmen put the finishing touches. All the worries last month of patches of loose turf are no longer an issue.
"The ground is in tip-top shape so we just need 18,000 to 20,000 tomorrow to fill it. That would be the start to a good evening," a confident Hasler said.
Hasler was not as glowing when asked if Manly's North Narrabeen training base had the proper facilities - a key complaint from previous coach Trent Barrett, who said he had to bring some of his own furniture into the club.
"It's a question that I'm probably not knowledgeable enough to be able to answer discreetly," Hasler said.
"There was probably a lot more involved than a couple of garden chairs and a dining table … no disrespect."