Northern Pride chairman Tony Williamson says it would "hurt" to lose prized recruit Todd Carney before the QRL season starts but the club won't stand in his way should an NRL team come calling.
Manly are in the hunt to find a suitable playmaker to work alongside Daly Cherry-Evans after releasing Blake Green to the Warriors and missing out on Mitchell Pearce.
While Manly coach Trent Barrett has not ruled out making a play for the Pride's new half back, Williamson said he believed the Sea Eagles were most likely interested in out-of-favour Newcastle Knight Trent Hodkinson, with whom Carney shares a manager.
"I've talked to Todd and I'm confident that it's more about Hodkinson," Williamson said late yesterday afternoon.
"It would hurt (to lose him) but we've got to welcome this. Because it's not about us, it's about Todd Carney going to the next level.
"We are a pathway club. If we can play a role in getting Todd Carney back to the NRL, we've done our job."
Carney's manager David Riolo said the chances of his client moving to Brookvale before the start of the season were slim.
"I don't think it'll happen, mate and I haven't heard from him (Barrett)," Riolo said.
"I'm not really sure why people are talking about it."
Despite signing a three-year deal with the Pride, CEO Greg Dowling said last month he expected Carney to return to the NRL before his playing days were done.
"I'd like to see him back in the NRL. I think he has a lot to offer," Dowling said.
"I'll be surprised if he isn't there at the end of the year."
Williamson said Carney had already made a big impression on the club, mentoring the Pride's talented young halves this preseason.
"If it happens, it just opens the door for another kid to go along," Williamson said.
"There are some outstanding halfbacks running around.
"Todd's done everything right and he's a complete professional in the way he conducts himself. Just his habits, even though he hasn't had the chance to show what he can do on the field, he's made a big difference already."
If Carney stays this season, Williamson said it wouldn't be long before the former Dally M medallist was back in the national competition.
"We sort of half expect it'll happen next year when people see him on the field," he said.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.