Cronulla are resigned to losing Kurt Capewell in 2020 even though the popular utility has told teammates he'd "love to stay".
The off-contract Capewell came close to a Queensland Origin debut this year and has performed admirably for the Sharks, whether playing his favoured back-row position or a wide-ranging interchange role.
The Warriors - who Cronulla take on this Saturday at PointsBet Stadium - have been touted as a possible destination. Capewell has accepted he is set to leave his debut NRL club, according to Sharks halfback Chad Townsend.
"It's sort of amazed me that he's still unsigned for next year. I think he'd be an asset to any team he goes to," Townsend said.
Sharks v Warriors - Round 23
"I'd love him to stay here but I'm not sure what his go is ... I think his next step is to play a whole season as a starting back-rower and I think that's what he's looking for.
"I think he [has come to terms with departing]. He's told us he'd love to stay but it's more about what the best decision is for his career and his development. We've got some pretty handy back-rowers here at the Sharks [Wade Graham, Briton Nikora] and obviously Capes is one of them.
"But his role at the moment is coming off the bench and being the utility player, whereas if he went to another team he could potentially start and hopefully his career would go up and up. You can't begrudge someone who wants to do that but I'd love him to stay."
Star edge forward Wade Graham - who Capewell is stuck behind in the pecking order - also vouched for the Charleville junior's abilities.
Best still ahead for Sharks
However, he realises that salary cap pressure stemming from the penalties imposed at the beginning of the year for historical breaches will make it difficult to retain Capewell.
"It will be disappointing if we lost him. It's pretty well-publicised how tight our cap is with the sanctions and where we're sitting at the moment as a club," Graham said.
"He's a great player, a quality player. He's versatile, he can play so many positions [and] he can play those positions well.
"He's a great club man and he's been here for [four] years now, so he's really fit in. It would be tough to lose him but it's hard at the moment with the position we're in."
Another Sharks forward facing an uncertain future is premiership-winning prop Matt Prior. While contracted next season, the Sharks' salary cap situation could sway them to offload the 32-year-old.
Prior has been linked to Parramatta and told NRL.com in July that playing overseas is an option to finish his career.
"It would be devastating [if Prior went]. Matt Prior's been one of our best and most consistent [players] ... He does a lot of little efforts and defensively he's one of the toughest front-rowers I've come across," said Townsend.
"I quite often give it to him that he used to play in the centres when he was at St George [Illawarra]. I've heard the talk that he might be leaving but I haven't spoken to him personally.
"I'd hate to see him go, but if he was to move on that's the nature of the sport."