Barrett still hunting for new Manly NRL recruits
RUGBY LEAGUE: Manly coach Trent Barrett hopes to have the salary cap situation at the club resolved before the start of the NRL season and with time to add players to their squad.
The Sea Eagles were on Monday granted a third extension, until the end of this week, to offer their response to the NRL's December 11 breach notice, which surrounded alleged third-party breaches over the past five seasons and threatened a reduced salary cap for 2018.
Since then they have largely missed out on the recruitment merry-go-round, with an experienced replacement for departed five-eighth Blake Green yet to arrive at the club.
They were, this week, unable to land Cronulla Sharks-bound playmaker Trent Hodkinson, while it's also understood the ongoing investigation played some role in Mitchell Pearce's decision to head to the Newcastle Knights over the Sea Eagles.
"We're still stuck with this salary cap stuff," Barrett said.
"We can't do anything until that's resolved and I'm hoping that will be in the next few weeks and put to bed before the competition starts.
"It's pretty well documented that we have got space in our cap and spots in our top 30, but until this is resolved we can't fill them."
The club have denied any wrongdoing, with chairman Scott Penn claiming last week the matters were "really technicality issues".
Barrett has left much of the issue with Penn and new chief executive Lyall Gorman, as he puts his energy towards trying to qualify the Sea Eagles for a second-straight finals series.
While he is happy with his playing group, he still has ambitions on adding more talent given this year's increased $9.4 million salary cap and the official retirements of Brett Stewart and Steve Matai.
"There's always movement right up until June 30," Barrett said.
"Something always happens, and there will be injuries during a trial or there will be a disgruntled player whose not getting a run that wants to leave.
"I'm really happy with what we've got here at the moment but if the cap situation does get resolved and it's favourable to us, then we will have money to spend hypothetically."
Manly's most obvious target remains in the halves with someone to partner Daly Cherry-Evans, but Barrett has thrown his support behind 21-year-old recruit Lachlan Croker.
Croker played one game for the Canberra Raiders in 2016 and is expected to wear Manly's No.6 jersey for their opening-round trip to Newcastle on March 9.
"Everyone's got to start somewhere. He was a Junior Kangaroo and Australian schoolboys captain," Barrett said.
"I've got a good idea in my head of what I've got to do and all the players are really comfortable with it."