Manly have handed veteran back-rower Tony Williams a 2020 lifeline as he looks to continue his career revival under Des Hasler.
NRL.com understands that Williams has signed a bargain basement one-year deal with the Sea Eagles for next season worth around $100,000, and lined up for Manly's return to pre-season training last week.
He was originally left out of the club's 2020 roster list submitted on November 1, with the club leaving a spot open pending a verdict on Manase Fainu's future after he was stood down by the NRL over serious criminal charges.
Despite turning 31 next month and only playing six NRL games in the past three years, Williams impressed Manly officials having dropped weight when he reported back at Narrabeen headquarters last week.
Williams's retention for the Sea Eagles will add depth to their forward stocks after moving into the club's feeder system through Blacktown Workers in 2019.
Five key match-ups of the Sea Eagles' 2020 draw
He was granted an NRL exemption to be named by the Sea Eagles during this year's finals series but did not make it onto the paddock against Cronulla or Souths.
Lengthy recoveries from shoulder surgery for both Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake are expected to leave Manly without their two best forwards for the start of the 2020 season, potentially bringing Williams into the frame.
Hasler has long kept the faith in the 118kg powerhouse, having taken him to Australian and NSW honours, as well as the 2011 premiership, during their first stint together at Manly.
Williams followed Hasler to Canterbury on a lucrative four-year deal before linking with the Sharks and Eels, when injuries and a three-month ban for testing positive to cocaine looked to have ended his 170-game career.
Fainu, meanwhile, will continue his rehab from off-season shoulder surgery at Narrabeen this week, as permitted under the terms of his court-imposed house arrest.
The 21-year-old hooker is facing three charges over the alleged stabbing of a man at a church dance in Sydney's south-west, with his case next set for mention on December 16.
In the meantime, Manly are in a holding pattern as far as their roster and hooking stocks are concerned, with few options available on the open market and playmakers Zach Dockar-Clay, Lachlan Croker and Cade Cust being sized up as makeshift No.9s.
NRL.com understands that out-of-favour Newcastle rake Danny Levi has been discussed by the Sea Eagles as a potential replacement should Fainu be unavailable in 2020.
Magic Round gets even better in 2020
"We have to see how this picture evolves," new CEO Stephen Humphreys said last week.
"We're doing all of our contingency planning and there are a number of avenues that we're exploring.
"We hope Manase's innocence is proven soon, but we're not in control of that and that will run its course so we're putting our contingency plans together."