Origin winger Edrick Lee is set to depart the Newcastle Knights at the end of the season after three years at the club because of salary cap constraints.
The Newcastle Herald understands his management is already sounding out rival clubs about their interest in the Maroons winger after being told the Knights won't be offering him a contract extension.
There is even a slight possibility Lee may have played his last game for the Knights with the club unlikely to stand in his way if a rival offered a longer-term deal and wanted him to join them straight away.
Lee is currently recovering after breaking a bone in his foot during pre-season training in late January, an injury that is likely to keep him out for potentially the opening month of the season.
His injury history is also believed to have played a role in the club's decision. In his two seasons in Newcastle, he has suffered two broken arms which restricted him to 25 games over that period with his fractured foot the latest setback.
Knights officials are refusing to comment on Lee's contract situation.
When quizzed on Lee's future, head of recruitment Clint Zammit would only say: "We are just look forward to Eddie getting over his injury and getting back on the field. He's working hard to make that happen."
News the club is letting him go is unlikely to please fans with the tall, rangy winger becoming a real crowd favourite from the moment he raced 80 metres to score the matchwinning try on debut against his former club Cronulla at McDonald Jones Stadium in the opening round in 2019. He has rarely played a poor game for the Knights.
His departure will also impact the playing group with Lee one of the most popular and respected players on the roster.
Ironically, his Origin selection for Queensland and his crucial try in the decider at Suncorp Stadium at the end of last season haven't help his chances of landing a new deal at the Knights with his price tag only going up as a result.
The emergence of youngster Starford To'a and promising early signs from the likes of teenage English recruit Dominic Young and Brayden Musgrove have also contributed to the decision not to re-sign Lee.
Boom centre Bradman Best has also just signed an upgraded contract which has affected the club's salary cap position.
Lee is one of a host of Knights players off contract at the end of the season.
Of the 17-man squad likely to take the field against the Bulldogs in round one at home on Friday night, lock Connor Watson, five-eighth Kurt Mann, winger Hymel Hunt, fullback Tex Hoy and bench forwards Josh King and Brodie Jones don't have deals beyond the end of the season.
Injured players Blake Green and Lachlan Fitzgibbon are other prominent stars without contracts.
IN THE NEWS:
- Two men stabbed in 'significant and violent confrontation' at Shalistan Street, Cliftleigh
- Landmark pelvic mesh implants ruling upheld in federal court
- Kelly Slater to miss tour event at Newcastle
- ANALYSIS: PM Scott Morrison flatters Hunter on third visit in six months
- NSW COVID-19 school rules to change from Monday, March 8, 2021
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: