The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Sea Eagles opened formal negotiations with Stewart’s management on Monday, but quickly struck an impasse over his asking price.
It’s understood Stewart is seeking a four-year deal worth $2.4 million – a package well in excess of Manly’s current budget.
The Sea Eagles are in a salary cap flap next year thanks to heavily back-ended contracts and the urgent need to upgrade dynamic halves Keiran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans.
According to club insiders, the premiers need to shave $500,000 off their star-studded squad to comply with next year’s $5 million cap and Stewart’s departure would single-handedly achieve that.
Although coach Geoff Toovey and CEO David Perry would prefer to keep the crowd favourite at Brookvale for life, it appears inevitable Stewart is headed elsewhere in 2013.