Despite recent reports linking Melbourne Storm star Cameron Munster to a shift to the Harbour City and a place in the halves with the Sydney Roosters, the Moore Park club's much-speculated salary cap situation is said to be at breaking point.
Such suggestions claimed that if the Chooks were to sink their talons into Munster and pry him north of the border, it would require parting ways with club stalwart Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and a pair of ex-Bunnies in Luke Keary and Angus Crichton.
However, secondary claims laid out by Phil Rothfield of The Daily Telegraph paint a picture of a club with a salary cap about to burst, with suggestions that Crichton's prospective deal to remain in Tri-colours may not be registered by the league.
Speaking on Fox League, Rothfield stated that due to the financial constraints found on the Chooks' books, the likelihood of Munster being clad in red, white and blue was a pipedream at best.
“The bottom line is I don’t think Munster will be at the Roosters because they have serious salary cap issues,” the veteran scribe said on NRL 360.
With the necessity of paying Joey Manu's extension, keeping James Tedesco happy and allowing for a crust left to offer incoming rake Brandon Smith, Rothfield was of the view the Roosters' cap for the 2023 season had just about spent itself.
“They have got Joey Manu who is not off-contract until 2024 and he’s on $800,000 a year. They have got James Tedesco on $1.1 million. Luke Keary is on $850,000. Brandon Smith next year is on $800,000 as well," he added.
“So I just don’t think there is room for a $1.1 or $1.2 million player.”
Despite previous suggestions from player, club and management that Crichton's deal to keep his time with the Chooks rolling was as good as done, Rothfield expressed that the supposedly inked contract could not be lodged with league HQ.
“I’ll tell you how much pressure their salary cap is under, Angus Crichton agreed to terms and the deal wasn’t signed because they cannot lodge it with the NRL because it would put them over the cap for next year,” Rothfield said.
Though the futures of Ronald Volkman, Freddy Lussick, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Kevin Naiqama and Sam Verrills have either been decided or remain tentative, a plethora of slots in Trent Robinson's roster for next season have effectively been opened.
Still, if the ability to remain with the Eastern Suburbs' team is taken off the table, or evades his nine fingers entirely, Rothfield delineated that the lure of a return to rugby union could prove too strong for Crichton.
“Crichton possibly might go, but they have got a deal with him and they don’t want to dud him," he said of the former schoolboy union star.
“If the Wallabies came up and rugby union, I’m sure they would probably let him go.
“That talk has been around for a long time.”
Though offloading Keary's contract - among others - may allow for the Nick Politis-steered club to keep their head above water in a cap sense, the fact that the next generation will require significant contractual upgrades has thrown yet another spanner into the works.
“There is also three Roosters players that are going to need upgrades in Victor Radley, Joseph Suaalii, who is off-contract at the end of this year and Sam Walker, who can talk to other clubs in November,” Rothfield said in finality.
“So rather than bring in Munster they have got a lot of work to do on their cap.”
According to numbers collated by Zero Tackle, should Sydney part ways with Waerea-Hargreaves, Keary and Crichton at the cessation of this season, the club would stand to save within the vicinity of $2.27 million - the figure reportedly paid to the trio this season
As of 2022, the NRL's official salary cap figure has been set at $9.4 million for each of the competition's 16 clubs.