Manly’s roster is set for a huge shake-up as five contractual players have been told they are free to transfer to another club. Ben Condon, Kaeo Weekes, Zac Fulton, Kelma Tuilagi, and Karl Lawton have reportedly held discussions with Manly officials and have been given the green light to seek better deals elsewhere if they choose to do so.
None of these players are being ousted forcibly. If none can secure a more favourable offer with other teams, they are expected to participate in Manly’s pre-season training in November. The Sea Eagles are not under any strain to trim their squad down because of salary cap restrictions. The focus is rather on refining and optimising their roster.
Rumours suggest that Raymond Vaega, Ethan Bullemor, Jamie Humphreys, and Gordon Chan Kum Tong have inked new contracts for the upcoming season, securing their spots within the top 30. Manly is also reportedly set on enhancing and extending the contract of the rising star, back-rower Haumole Olaka’uatu.
Brad Parker, though presently contract-less, is expected to be the first to be offered a top-30 contract if a spot opens up. Moreover, Manly are said to be in discussions to secure Matt Lodge for the upcoming season. Despite enduring a long period of absence due to a crutiate ligament rupture, Lodge is predicted to make it into the top 30 at some point in the next season.
Aaron Woods, the experienced prop, might also be retained by Sea Eagles in the subsequent season. Tuilagi and Weekes have acquired permission from Manly to negotiate with other teams for stable first-grade opportunities.
Tuilagi having completed just one season in his three-year contract is likely to attract interest in the free market considering his outstanding performances for the Tigers and Manly in the past seasons. Weekes recently signed a contract extension for an additional year.
Given Manly’s keenness to retain Olakau’atu, and with Josh Schuster planned to switch to the second row shortly, this could potentially lead to Tuilagi’s departure. Ben Trbojevic was prominently preferred in the back row towards the latter part of the season.
Lawton, who is currently recovering from a shoulder operation, has caught the interest of some UK Super League teams. The Sea Eagles have conceded to letting Lawton transfer if he is able to secure a multi-year contract in England.
Condon and Fulton who have featured in only a handful of games since joining the club are believed to be below the pecking order. The Sea Eagles completed the season with a morale-boosting pair of subsequent victories against Canterbury (42-24) and the Tigers (54-12) but couldn’t make it into the finals.