NRL Rd 1 - Panthers v Sea Eagles
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 10: Karl Lawton of the Sea Eagles is taken off the field for a HIA assessment during the round one NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Manly Sea Eagles at BlueBet Stadium on March 10, 2022, in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Manly Sea Eagles have reportedly had a change of heart over the future of hooker and forward Karl Lawton.

Lawton was reportedly among a group of players who were told they could leave the club before the end of their current contracts if they were to find a new home.

It came amid Manly's reported struggles with the salary cap, although that was very publicly shut down by club CEO Tony Mestrov, who said no issues of the sort existed.

Manly do have an extremely top-heavy salary cap, with big-money deals in the water for the Trbojevoic brothers, Josh Schuster, Daly Cherry-Evans and now Haumole Olakau'atu who has committed his long-term future to the club in recent times.

Lawton, who isn't believed to be on much in the way of salary, will now reportedly remain with the club according to Wide World of Sports.

A hooker who can also play in the second-row, Lawton has proven valuable at times in recent seasons for the Sea Eagles, although has spent time battling injury over the last two years.

Shoulder surgery ended his 2023 season, but the report suggests he has returned to training at the start of pre-season on the Northern Beaches as Anthony Seibold prepares his side in an attempt to improve on the 2023 effort and make the finals.

Lawton, who is off-contract at the end of 2024 as it is and can negotiate with other clubs now, played just ten first-grade games for the Sea Eagles last year.

Adding to the questions over whether he will stay at Manly is the breakout of Gordon Chan Kum Tong who will become the club's back-up to Lachlan Croker in 2024, as well as the continued emergence of Ben Trbojevic, who could fill both centre and second-row roles if he was named on the bench.

It could leave Lawton with, at best, a NSW Cup role in 2024.