NRL Rd 20 - Bulldogs v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Raymond Faitala-Mariner of the Bulldogs is tackled during the round 20 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Penrith Panthers at ANZ Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The Bulldogs have officially granted club captain Raymond Faitala-Mariner permission to speak with other clubs despite being contracted until the end of 2025.

The decision from the Bulldogs comes less than 12 months after he was appointed as the side's club captain and a member of the leadership group alongside co-captain Matt Burton and Reed Mahoney.

It also comes after the club looks to shake up their playing roster for next season after a disappointing year saw them finish in 15th place only ahead of the Dragons and Tigers.

There have been constant rumours and reports regarding Faitala-Mariner's status at the Bulldogs, but that can now be put to rest with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that he has officially been granted permission to negotiate with rival clubs.

The publication is also reporting that he will not be the only player who will be granted permission to negotiate with rival clubs and is only the first. "Several other contracted players are expected to be given permission to negotiate with rivals", the publication read.

“After discussions with Canterbury officials, Ray has been given permission to look elsewhere,” Ernesto Santone, Faitala-Mariner's manager, said via the Herald.

“Ray spoke about how much he loved the club when he was appointed captain at the start of the year,” Santone added.

“He has been a staunch supporter of the club, he's been there since 2016 through all the injuries and ups and downs. He has shown his commitment again this year by not playing in his regular position, he has continued at it.

“No one can question his work ethic after training while sick, which ended up becoming pneumonia. He spent five days in hospital and then returned to training six kilograms lighter pretty much straight away.”

If Faitala-Mariner fails to find a new club in the near future or by the time his contract expires, it is likely that he has played his final game for the Bulldogs, but he will remain at the club.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 03: Raymond Faitala of the Bulldogs is tackled during the round 22 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels at ANZ Stadium on August 3, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The 30-year-old recently appeared in his 100th game for the club but has struggled to play consistently due to injuries and sickness. The forward missed a significant amount of time this year due to sickness that ended up leading to pneumonia.

He has previously spoken about the toll that the sickness took on him in July.

“It started off like a 'flu and then there was this one training session where it was really cold,” Faitala-Mariner said, per NRL.com.

“I shouldn't have trained but I trained anyway – I trained, being ill – and one thing led to another.

“I was in the hospital, I did a few blood tests, and they came back that I had pneumonia. I was in hospital for a week, and I was bedridden for about four weeks … I actually thought pneumonia was only for the elderly people until I spoke to the doctor and he said anyone can get it.”