General Warriors' recruiting plans



By Peter Jessup

The Warriors are well into negotiations to retain the players they want for next season as they reshape a squad the management admits is not performing to expectation.

Decisions made by high earners Clinton Toopi and Awen Guttenbeil in coming weeks will determine how much the Warriors have to spend on new talent.

The club will carry some hangover from the salary cap overspend of 2004-05 into next season, despite the departure of prop Richard Villasanti.

Off-contract and able to negotiate with other clubs from July 1 once the anti-tampering deadline has expired are fullback Brent Webb, centre and goal-kicker Tony Martin, prop Evarn Tuimavave, second rower Epalahame Lauaki plus Toopi and Guttenbeil.

Toopi and Guttenbeil had been given permission to negotiate with Super League clubs.

"Clinton was always going to be hard to retain because of the money and so we've given him the option to see what he's worth on the market," said Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah.

Toopi's suggested switch to Wigan might be on hold after the English club signed Cronulla centre Phil Bailey yesterday for a substantial amount over three seasons. There remains the possibility the Wigan Warriors will be relegated at the end of the season as they struggle at the bottom of the Super League table.

Players who sign to English clubs usually have an "out" clause if the club drops. But a link with former NZ Warriors coach Daniel Anderson at St Helens is a possibility as Saints are about to lose Jamie Lyon who is returning to Parramatta, opening one of the two import holes.

This is the first real input Warriors coach Ivan Cleary will have into the squad he inherited from Tony Kemp. In recent days the club has extended the contracts of wing Manu Vatuvei and Misi Taulapapa, centre Simon Mannering and halfback Grant Rovelli. Captain Steve Price is signed for 2007 and vice-captain Ruben Wiki through to 2008.

Scurrah said the club was conducting a "rigorous" recruitment process but was not panicking ahead of the June 30 deadline.

"There are five or six [existing] players we are in negotiations with and some will have to wait until we have firm details of where the cap will be," he said. They were looking hard at the junior ranks and believed there was plenty of talent there.

The amount available to be spent under the A$3.9 million cap will be determined by whether the Warriors retain Toopi and Guttenbeil, with the lesser-lights offered amounts according to what is paid established players.

Scurrah said the salary cap rise announced by the NRL two weeks ago wasn't any help because other clubs got it too and so Warriors players would be targets for them.

The departure of Villasanti to the Sharks a fortnight ago helped ease their salary cap problems "but it didn't solve it. We had already paid him a lot; the Sharks coming in allows us to reduce the amount deferred to next year".

Cleary was still assessing the balance of the squad. "We're all of the opinion we're pretty unhappy with where the team has been at for the last three years," Scurrah said.

He implied there would be personnel changes. "If you keep on doing the same things you're going to get the same results."

* The Warriors have had former Storm and Kiwi second rower Matt Rua at training in recent days but he is far from the fitness required for a return to the NRL.

Rua made a return to the game with the Waitakere Rangers in Bartercard Cup this season after dropping out of the NRL in the 2002 season and then working as a development officer for his old club the Waitemata Seagulls.


indeed. seems like we could be losing a few players due to the cap etc but have signed up lots of the younger player in the squad.


If we are going the young guys way, next year could be painfull, I would like to see us keep Awen for one more year.
Over a 4 year period we are set to lose all our leaders
Of the players we have I don't see that many stepping up at the moment, maybe mannering and Anderson, I think we have to keep Webb he will have his 100 games up by the end of the year.


I've got a feeling Awen will go. The Warriors are likley only to offer him a year by year contract where he could probably get a two year deal at higher pay elsewhere. It'd be hard for him to turn that down.

Villa gone, Toopi likely to go. Whether Martin stays or go will depend on Webb/Toopi. Tuimavavae and Lauaki will probably stay at this stage. The Warriors would be crazy to let Tuimavavae go seeing as Wiki and Price are coming to the end of their careers.

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