Star recruit Shaun Johnson’s availability for Cronulla’s season opener is in doubt. Picture: Getty Images
Star recruit Shaun Johnson’s availability for Cronulla’s season opener is in doubt. Picture: Getty Images

Off-field dramas could trigger NRL buying spree

Up to eight clubs are preparing for a last-minute scramble to finalise their rosters for the season as a host of off-field issues look set to have huge ramifications on the player market.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal at least two clubs, Parramatta and New Zealand Warriors, are closely monitoring how heavily Cronulla will be fined for their salary cap ­indiscretions.

The Sharks will learn their punishment at an ARL Commission meeting on Thursday and the club is expected to be told to shed a mid-tier player to become cap compliant.

Wests Tigers will learn their fate over a $640,000 salary cap penalty they were hit with over a deal to make Robbie Farah a club ­ambassador.

However, The Daily Telegraph understands they may not be forced to shed a player given the NRL approved the signing Robert Jennings from South Sydney last week.

St George Illawarra may seek a last-minute addition to their roster should the NRL stand down representative forward Jack de Belin after the ARL Commission meeting on Thursday.

And Manly may be forced on to the open market if centre Dylan Walker, who faces court tomorrow on domestic violence charges, is suspended.

Cronulla are bracing for a fine and salary cap penalty of between $400,000 to $500,000.

They may be given the opportunity to become cap compliant over two years, rather than immediately.

Unless the club can move a player, it is understood star recruit Shaun Johnson won't be allowed to play in round one.

The NRL has a "last man in, first-man out" rule which states the club's last signing - in this case, Johnson - cannot play if the club cannot become cap compliant. It is unlikely but this could push Johnson on to the open market.

It is more plausible that Cronulla would try and shed a mid-tier player such as Jayson Bukuya, Kurt Capewell or Jayden Brailey.

If other clubs fail to sign the mid-tier player on offer, Cronulla may then be forced to look at moving a higher-profile player.

 

The Sharks could shed forward Jayson Bukuya. Picture: Getty Images
The Sharks could shed forward Jayson Bukuya. Picture: Getty Images

 

Speculation is already surrounding centre Josh Dugan.

Canberra have indicated they would sign halfback Chad Townsend but the Sharks are reluctant to release their grand final-winning No.7.

Cronulla don't want to lose any players just before the season starts, particularly with rookie coach John Morris only recently taking charge, but that decision may be taken out of their hands.

Melbourne also have salary cap issues and continue to shop around big prop Sam Kasiano.

The "last man in" player Melbourne signed for this year was ­skipper Cameron Smith.

 

Sam Kasiano is being shopped around by the Storm. Picture: Getty Images
Sam Kasiano is being shopped around by the Storm. Picture: Getty Images

 

Although highly unlikely, the Storm could be forced to overlook Smith for selection until the club ­becomes cap compliant, hence their desperation to move along Kasiano.

The Tigers and Manly may have a look at Kasiano.

Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler ­extracted the best from Kasiano when the pair worked together at Canterbury.

Cronulla officials were briefed and interviewed last week about the salary cap issues the club is facing.

The Daily Telegraph has been told the indiscretions are worse than first thought.

Sharks CEO Barry Russell self-reported the anomalies found from the 2015 season.

News Corp Australia


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