Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Transfer Shenanigan Update

Thingy or Jason Gunn?

Thingy or Jason Gunn?

A week or two ago, I highlighted how the Warriors had held off any dramatic recruitment moves and how this is giving them flexibility among the turmoil of the salary cap. This isn't just based on the fact that clubs didn't know exactly what the salary cap for next season would be until fairly recently, but also salary cap turmoil in terms of other clubs then juggling their rosters to fit the cap at such a late stage. 

This still applies, just don't expect any super duper recruitment moves other than the possibility of signing Adam Blair - it's purely Blair's choice at this stage and the Warriors can't do much else other than wait. Flexibility is beneficial because it allows the Warriors wiggle room to pick up unwanted players from other clubs who are established in the NRL, journeymen sort of characters who know what it takes to compete in the NRL each week.

These are the type of signings I expect the Warriors to make and they are the type of signings the club needs, to put pressure on the younger players and immediately help the club compete.

Again; don't expect big names. The Warriors don't need big names either, they need high quality job-doers such as James Gavet who the club picked up cheaply, gave him an opportunity and he emerged as the best forward this season. The Warriors have made a big name signing already in Tohu Harris and I'd advise Warriors fans to watch Harris closely as the significance of each game now increases. I'm a huge Harris fan and I believe Harris is the perfect signing, so just observe how he goes over the next few weeks.

We know Leivaha Pulu has been signed as well. Pulu is a versatile forward who like Gavet and Harris offers more mobility, offloading ability and a splash of mongrel. Signing Pulu wouldn't have cost the Warriors too much as Gold Coast don't have a whole lot of dosh to work with and the Warriors would have merely had to upgrade Pulu's basement deal (he was signed out of reserve grade) to lure him home. Nice signing as Pulu is cheap-ish and ticks the required boxes, plus he's been around the rugby league world and has a lot more life experience than the young forwards who have come through the Warriors.

I wrote about Gubb's departure from a #KiwiNRL perspective yesterday. From a Warriors perspective this has been on the radar since early in the season and I'm not sure how much the Warriors could have done to keep Gubb around. There's only so much the Warriors can pay a bench forward, who is certainly a cult-hero but has a limited ceiling.

Remember that the Warriors had to upgrade Gavet's contract, then they upgraded Ligi Sao, Patrick Sipley and will have to do something with Tevita Satae as well. Gubb's all good, but the Warriors can get cheaper blokes to do what Gubb has done and at this stage of his career, Gubb deserves to cash in. Canberra is a great fit for Gubb, so happy days.

Vete is likely to be re-signed, but again, Vete hasn't really done much this season to demand a better contract from the Warriors. I believe (just a hunch) that the Warriors have held off making re-signing Vete official, to keep some flexibility and keep options open as other clubs look to offload players. The Warriors not only have cheaper players who can do Vete's job already at the club, but guys like Sipley, Satae and Pulu are far better suited to the NRL right now as they are bigger and more mobile than Vete.

If Vete's happy to accept less money to stay at the Warriors, all goodies. If he's wanting more money, then that money can be better used elsewhere. Vete's future could be tied to what happens with Lillyman and I reckon that having Lillyman, Vete and Lisone in the same forward pack has played a role in holding the Warriors back as the NRL moves towards forwards who are either massive or mobile, or a combination of both. Lisone, Lillyman and Vete are all of a similar size and don't offer a whole lot else other than Lisone's stage one passing game and Vete has shown signs of loving an offload. 

This stylistic conundrum is evident in the impact of Gavet, who blasted ahead of the other three forwards. I don't really see the point in re-signing Lillyman and it's notable that Lillyman played in Queensland's game one loss to New South Wales; Queensland changed up their style of forwards and won the next two games. There's benefit in Lillyman's experience, although there's only so much money you can pay for that and Lillyman's future is closely tied to the decision that Blair makes.

Without Lillyman or Vete, the Warriors middle stocks still look fairly good even assuming that they don't sign Blair. They have size, mobility, aggression and oomph. 

Starters: Gavet, Lisone, Mannering.
Bench: Pulu, Satae, Tevaga/Sipley (+ Roache).

That's a worse-case scenario and it's not terrible. I love Gavet and I'm eager to see Pulu and Satae unleashed, especially with Satae getting a full pre-season to his name. Throw in Blair, or more importantly a solid, experienced forward who needs a crack and it gets a bit better. Even with that worse-case scenario, I advise y'all to stay low key excited about the Warriors forward pack. Don't get too caught up in the noise about needed a big name forward or more grunt up front, they have intriguing pieces already.

The most intriguing piece in all of this is still Bodene Thompson. Tohu Harris will lock down the left edge and while Bunty Afoa has enjoyed decent minutes this season, Thompson is a far better edge forward than Afoa right now. Harris and Thompson are certified NRL forwards and the difference between having them on either edge vs youngsters is immense.

I don't see why A) the Warriors wouldn't want to keep Thompson and B) Thompson would want to leave. Thompson is unlikely to get a better deal elsewhere (he could get an equal deal) and I strongly believe that players like Thompson can see the Stephen Kearney plan unfolding. 

As someone who finds the irrational frustration/hatred/negativity directed towards the Warriors as rather funny, I also find the noise about the Warriors needing to bring in this guy or that guy as also rather funny. The key now is to re-sign Thompson and other than that, I'm not too fussed about what happens. Either the Warriors re-sign what they have and tell them good luck competing for a top-17 spot (Lillyman and Vete may struggle), or they don't re-sign them and sneak in a few shrewd business moves as the transfer market heats up.

Peace and love 27.

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