KIAMA products Josh and Brett Morris are poised to be squeezed out of Canterbury, with salary cap dramas leaving the club with just $750,000 for recruitment and retention for 2019.
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The Bulldogs hierarchy has undergone radical changes in recent months, with a new coach, captain, chief executive and board attempting to break a premiership drought that stretches back to 2004.
It will be no easy feat given they have inherited a salary cap mess following years of mismanagement by their predecessors.
The result is there is no chance of the Bulldogs making a play for Canberra half Aidan Sezer this season despite his desire to move back to his junior club.
In a further blow, an ankle injury suffered by big-money prop Aiden Tolman has scuppered any chance of a mid-season transfer to either Cronulla or the Gold Coast.
The blue and whites will have little money to spend on their rebuild after a number of star were signed on inflated and back-ended contracts.
Star outside backs Josh and Brett Morris, currently on deals worth a combined $1.5 million per season, are off contract at the end of the year.
While coach Dean Pay and his staff would like to retain them, they would almost need to a take a zero off their combined pay packets to be any chance of remaining at Belmore.
The twins would need to go to England to earn anything resembling their current pay cheques.
Their departures will leave a huge hole in the backline – between them, the brothers have scored 259 tries in 467 NRL appearances.
Another former international coming off contract is Greg Eastwood.
While he has made a successful return from heart surgery, the veteran back-rower is on money comparable to that of the Morris twins.
The 31-year-old would need to take a huge pay cut to stay put, but may be prepared to do so because of a lack of alternative options.
Other current or fringe first graders set to become free agents include Asipeli Fine, Matt Frawley, Clay Priest, Lachlan Burr and Josh Cleeland.
Pay now has the challenge of assembling a competitive roster that may include some of the aforementioned free agents on a shoestring budget of $750,000 for next year, while the following season isn’t much better.
Former coach Des Hasler’s penchant for back-ending contracts hurt Manly when he left there, and Canterbury are about to experience a similar pain.
Hasler is in a contractual dispute currently before the Supreme Court, with any pay-out potentially eating into the newly installed $5.7 million cap on football department spending.
The Bulldogs signed Kieran Foran on a rich, three-year deal but haven’t got an established halves partner to play alongside him.
Frawley was dropped early in the season, to be replaced by Jeremy Marshall-King.
The younger brother of Benji Marshall was originally signed on a one-year deal, but has sufficiently impressed to earn an upgraded three-year contract.
The Bulldogs have signed Newcastle’s Jack Cogger for next season and are hoping he would be released for the current one, but it’s unclear whether the Knights will let him go before the June 30 deadline.
While the Bulldogs are salary cap compliant for 2018 after shifting contracted stars including James Graham, Sam Kasiano and Brad Abbey, it’s understood they have less than $100,000 to play with for the current season.
That means a pitch for Sezer - who is believed to be in talks about a three-year, $500,000 extension at the Raiders - isn’t a possibility.
With little money to play with, the Bulldogs will need to look for bargain buys and make better use of their junior nursery.
Josh Reynolds’ departure to the Tigers marked the loss of one of the few local juniors to have made the transition into the first grade ranks in recent years.
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