Several NRL coaches have expressed concern over fielding their best players at the Auckland Nines because the competition is perceived "high risk".
A host of teams are refusing to take their stars to the Nines due to the fear of injury.
As a result, Manly and the Wests Tigers have both named weakened teams for next month's assault on the Nines.
More teams, including Canberra, are expected to follow suit in the coming days.
Under the Auckland Nines' rules, all clubs must send 12 of its top 25 players and one from their top five. However, coaches are reluctant to field their best players as the fast-paced nature of a congested Nines schedule increases the prospect of injury.
The Sea Eagles were hit hard at last year's Nines, losing Jamie Buhrer (broken jaw), Jayden Hodges (ACL) and Jake Trbojevic (concussion). It prompted coach Trent Barrett to slam the Nines concept, describing it "dangerous" after having his premiership campaign hammered by injury.
Apart from suggesting the Nines showed "little regard for player welfare", a furious Barrett added that he was happy to be knocked out in the quarterfinals, rather than contest the $370,000 first prize bounty.
"It's pretty obvious why we don't bring all the guns," Barrett said. "It's a massive risk.
"I left a lot of blokes out for genuine reasons - because they weren't ready to play - and I'm bloody glad I didn't bring them now. We might've had to play Brett Stewart for five games in a day and that would've been a disaster."
Concerns over fielding players at the Nines follows criticism aimed at trial matches in general.
A number of well-known figures in rugby league have questioned the need for trials, especially if they are played in warmer conditions.
In a bid to combat the heat and protect player welfare, the NRL have scheduled most trials in the late afternoon and night.
This hasn't stopped Penrith boss Phil Gould from expressing his frustration about the unknown four-week pre-season period where clubs pray their premiership hopes aren't extinguished before the season proper officially kicks off.
"I don't think we need trials," Gould said via twitter. "Some coaches and players disagree. Players look after each other in trials though."