A spectacular falling out with Manly supremo Bob Fulton is the fundamental reason coach Trent Barrett is walking out of the club at the end of next year and possibly sooner.
Barrett is contracted until the end of the 2020 season, but has given 12 months' notice, as allowed under the terms of the contract extension he signed in November last year.
An angry stand-off between the Sea Eagles and Barretts veteran manager, Wayne Beavis, has already begun, although Beavis has told Fairfax Media the matter could be resolved by Thursday.
At this stage, Manly is standing firm. The club says it's not prepared to give their disgruntled coach a payout to leave at the end of this season.
It also doesnt want to be bent around the little finger of Beavis, who has become the central figure in the games coaching circus because he represents many of the main performers. Well get to that in a moment.
Just as intriguing is the reason why Barrett is quitting.
While Manlys lack of football resources are being proffered, it can be revealed that Barretts fallout with Fulton is at the heart of the matter.
Fulton handed Barrett his first NRL job on the advice of Panthers general manager Phil Gould, who long ago identified Barrett as a future coach and quickly made him an assistant at Penrith. Gould is also managed by Beavis.
Fulton still exerts enormous influence at the Sea Eagles, even though he stood down in October as a consultant after being parachuted in three years ago by the Penn family, the owners of the club, to restructure the football department.
“I struck gold with my decision to appoint Trent Barrett as head coach,” Fulton said on the day he stood down.
But, since then, the relationship between Barrett and Fulton has soured.
Barrett stopped returning Fultons phone calls and has also complained privately about the powerbrokers continuing influence. Fultons sons, Scott and Brett, both work at the club.
Those close to Fulton argue Barrett lost his way the moment he stopped taking advice from the Immortal.
Fulton is overseas and could not be contacted for comment. Barrett has not responded to calls and text messages for two days.
Manly chief executive Lyall Gorman continued with his line that he would not engage in “speculation about our coach” with three matches remaining this season.
“I cant really comment and Im in a meeting at the moment,” Beavis said. "He's got a contract there for two more years. We've put Manly on notice about resources and all that constantly and nothing's ever been done."
The wily Beavis – who is 75 years old and apparently retired in January – is often in a meeting.
He is the long-time manager of Gould as well as the coach Gould just sacked, Anthony Griffin, who had a year to run on his contract at Penrith.
Other clubs and agents believe its all set up for Barrett to return to Penrith, where he has a close relationship with caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo.
“I dont think Trent is going to be there [at Manly], but hes certainly not coming to Penrith,” Gould told Channel Nines Six Tackles with Gus podcast. “Weve never pursued Trent Barrett, Ive never had a discussion with Trent Barrett about coming to Penrith and I wont be having a discussion with Trent Barrett about coming to Penrith."
The remarks echo those of chairman Dave ONeill and chief executive Brian Fletcher. Then again, not that long ago, we were being told that Griffins job was safe and he had the support of the players.
"Penrith made the decision on Griffin, not me," Beavis said. "I represented Griffin in all of that. That's been resolved. That's all done. In the case of Barrett, everyone's speculated that because he's leaving Manly he's going to Penrith. That's never been discussed."
Manly are worried that Beavis is gaining too much influence over their club.
Two months ago, before Barrett told the Sea Eagles he wanted to quit, he asked for a contract extension for assistant coaches John Cartwright, Chad Randall and Dan Ferris.
All three received extended deals. Cartwright and Ferris are managed by Beavis.
Should Barrett go early, Cartwright would be an obvious candidate to take over, given his first-grade experience at the Gold Coast Titans.
Rugby league has always been a big boys club controlled by a select few. But rarely have clubs appeared so helpless in stopping its influence.
The Sea Eagles are defiant now but Beavis is too shrewd, too streetwise, to not make sure Barrett walks away on top.
Indeed, he's been agitating for a release all season. Manly officials were stunned when TV cameras greeted them at a secret crisis meeting with Barrett and Beavis in the city in May.
When Super League exploded in the mid-1990s, Beavis was a key player for the Australian Rugby League in its battle with News Ltd. He managed most of the games biggest stars, including then-Australian captain Brad Fittler.
Beavis built a house in the eastern suburbs from the commissions gained during that period. Asked in 2005, on the 10-year anniversary of Super League, what he thought about the so-called war, Beavis said: “I loved it — and you can quote me on that.”
In 2016, he was dragged into the Parramatta salary cap investigation over third-party payments made to his star client, Jarryd Hayne, who he has managed since Hayne was a teenager.
He handed in his players accreditation at the start of last year, saying it was time to retire. Since then, he has acted as an “adviser” to his former players.
Under NRL rules, unaccredited managers cannot sign player contracts, although its impossible to stop them from negotiating them. Agents and clubs cannot negotiate with players until the player reaches the final year of his current deal.
No such rules exist for coaches, on both counts.
The unregulated coaching market was one of the issues raised by NRL boss Todd Greenberg at a meeting of club chief executives on Tuesday.
Following Penriths brash attempt last week to sign Ivan Cleary, despite him being contracted to Wests Tigers for another two seasons, Greenberg had a simple question for the room.
“Should we put a ban on poaching coaches?” he asked the club bosses.
Nobody said a word.