SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Luke Keary of the Roosters holds up the Provan-Summons Trophy as he celebrates victory in the 2018 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Dolphins have continually been knocked back by superstars since the beginning of their maiden recruitment drive, however it appears one under-contract option may have been staring them in the face this whole time.

Luke Keary grew up in Ipswich, just over an hour away from Redcliffe, and if the dominoes fall in favour of Wayne Bennett, the Queensland town may need to get the 'welcome home' banners out of storage.

The Roosters five-eighth has one of the most impressive CV's in the competitions, appearances for the Kangaroos and New South Wales just filler in comparison to his three premiership rings and a Clive Churchill medal to boot.

Set to return this Friday after suffering yet another concussion, 30 year-old Keary's position at the club may be under threat due to the strong performances of his stand-in, Joseph Manu.

The Kiwi international had an absolute barnstormer against St. George Illawarra on Saturday, running for 194 metres on his way to a try-scoring double, along with two try-assists and three linebreaks, but it's not just what Joey does with the ball in hand that helps this football side.

A big reason behind the Roosters inconsistencies this season boils down to the friction between the two halves, Keary and Sam Walker.

Both absolute talents, the problem is a power struggle of sorts, with both halves performing better as 'the man' in their side - neither are great when it comes to play as the second fiddle.

The moment that turned that turned Luke Keary from a quality half to an elite one came back in 2018, when Cooper Cronk injured his shoulder in the preliminary final. The decision to keep Cronk on the park meant that suddenly Keary was the chief organiser and therefore forced to play both sides of the field.

He flourished, and won the Clive Churchill the next week.

Sam Walker was thrown in the deep end last season after Luke Keary tore his ACL in Round 3, excelling as the team's key attacking outlet, however he's never had to take the back seat in his blossoming NRL career.

Add on to it all the fact that Joey Manu has gotten way, way too good to be keep being starved out at right centre, grabbing every opportunity he gets in the spine with both hands. Michael Maguire played Manu at fullback for the Kiwis rep round clash against Tonga, and looks set to be used there in the World Cup for New Zealand.

Manu's inclusion at five-eighth erased that friction, and meant Walker had a clear cut idea of the role he was playing - he was the man. He was the organiser, the general play kicker, it was a conventional halves pairing with one playing what he sees, and the other telling his troops where to be, setting them up like chess pieces.

James Tedesco is tied up until the end of the 2024 season and there's zero chance the Roosters would let their captain walk, meaning if they want to hold onto the 26 year-old Manu, then he has to be content playing centre and earning centre money, move him into the spine - or lose him to a rival.

Walker is just 20 years-old and under contract until the end of 2023, and it seems like he'll be a Rooster for a long time yet. The tricolours have put some time into the youngster's development and see him as a long-term prospect, leaving Luke Keary sweating on a spot in this side.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Sam Walker of the Roosters looks on during the NRL Elimination Final match between Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast Titans at QCB Stadium, on September 11, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Manu has been shifted to centre this weekend for Keary's return in the six jersey, however it's becoming of 'when' not 'if' Manu moves into a position where he can regularly get his hands on the ball. Being given a licence to roam may keep the spine desires at bay temporarily, but it won't be a long-term fix.

Under contract until the end of 2024, the Roosters would need to give Keary permission to negotiate with rival clubs in order for Bennett to make an approach, and the Chooks would be expected to pay part of his 850K-a-year freight as well.

However, sending Keary to Redcliffe and chipping in a hypothetical 300K would give the Roosters the space to register Angus Crichton's contract, or use that 550K to make a play at a rival club's star, Payne Haas an obvious candidate.

At the same time, it would give the Dolphins their star, a multi-premiership-winning star from the area that could really help draw more talent to the club, and provide invaluable experience to the squad in terms of what it takes to win consistently at NRL level.

Now 30 and suffering a history of concussions, the Roosters definitely have the assets on the table to be able to afford to release Keary, and then further both Manu and Joseph Suaalii's development, by shifting them to five-eighth and centre respectively.

The dominoes will fall sooner or later, and things have to turn around for Wayne Bennett sooner or later, and especially with the Rabbitohs spine now all set to be extended by the club, options are getting thing for the veteran coach.

If I were Ipswich, I wouldn't be throwing those banners in the dumpster just yet.

The 2023 NRL Season is just around the corner and the Zero Tackle Season Guide is back! Get everything you need, from team lists, fixtures, statistics and a profile on every single player in the competition in our 2023 NRL Season Guide. Available now!