Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart says star five-eighth Trent Barrett will miss the rest of the NRL season after suffering a facial injury against Melbourne.
But Stuart has raised several eyebrows by declaring that it would be “unfair” on the Sharks if Barrett was allowed to tour with Australia in the autumn.
The 31-year-old former Wigan pivot suffered a double facial fracture when he collided with Storm prop Brett White.
The injury requires a considerable rehabilitation period but the possibility remains that Barrett could be fit for the Quad Nations tournament against England, France and New Zealand.
“He won’t be available,” Stuart told AAP.
“He’s going now to have six weeks out with a serious facial problem – to put it bluntly he’s too important for us for next year.
“I’ve hardly had Trent this year, I’ve missed him twice, for two games after being suspended through Origin.
“It’s not fair to my club in regards to sending him away now with the Australian team for a tour.
“I’m not going to risk him going away then coming back having six months out with a knee injury.”