John Cartwright has reiterated his hopes of taking over from good friend Trent Barrett at Manly while shock contender Jason Taylor has quickly ruled himself out of the race.
Taylor is holidaying with his family in Asia but told Fairfax Media on Thursday he was committed to coaching North Sydney in 2019 and not interested in the Sea Eagles gig.
As Sea Eagles and Kangaroos forward Jake Trbojevic noted it would be an "easy transition" to have assistant Cartwright move into the top job and Barrett's assistant said himself: "I'd love to have a crack at the job.
Cartwright added: "It's pleasing to hear the players have supported me. But I also understand the club is going through a process.
"I haven't read the papers since the end of the season and I don't watch any of the sports shows on TV, so the only time I hear about [other candidates] is when people ask me. I've totally distanced myself from it because I'd only waste too much energy."
Cartwright recently extended his stay at the club until the end of 2020 and remains in the box seat to replace Barrett, who continues to thrash out a payout with Manly. Neil Henry was seen as another contender with NRL experience.
Trbojevic, like younger brother Tom and their Kangaroos and Manly teammate Daly Cherry-Evans, have an enormous respect for Barrett and remain in contact with him.
Aware there is next to no chance of Barrett staying put, Trbojevic endorsed Cartwright.
"He has been there the last three years, he has a great resume, he has coached in the NRL before so he knows what it is like," Trbojevic said in Auckland ahead of Australia's Test against New Zealand on Saturday.
"He has coached at [State of] Origin level as an assistant, played for Australia, played for the Blues and had a great career at Penrith. He would be next in line. And it would be an easy transition."
Meanwhile, Wests Tigers' own coaching situation appears set to drag on for another couple of weeks as Ivan Cleary sweats on an early exit for Penrith.
Wayne Bennett, who has vowed to see out his final year at Brisbane in 2019, and Michael Maguire are seen as the two preferred replacements.
The Tigers' young Kiwi international Esan Marsters said: "I'm not too sure what's going on. Hopefully [Cleary] is still the coach but in saying that if he feels that's the right choice to make the move to go to Penrith, then it's the right move for him.
"He gave me my opportunity to debut. He does want to coach his son [Nathan] and if it's family first it's family first. There are no hard feelings."
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.