The signing of Adam Keighran hasn't quite been made officially official by New Zealand Warriors, however the two-year deal for Keighran has been made known by multiple jokers. Keighran is leaving Penrith Panthers to head to Mt Smart and as an up and coming half, Keighran boosts the Warriors depth in the play-making positions while also offering the ability to play centre.
In reporting this news, mainstream media in Aotearoa highlighted Keighran's utility value and while there is every chance that Keighran gets a run at centre next season, my gut feel is that he's been signed primarily as a play-maker. This season, playing for the Panthers reserve grade team, Keighran did feature at centre, however when it came to the climax of the season, Keighran was selected in the halves for the back end of the regular season and then in two finals games as the Panthers made the New South Wales ISC semi-finals.
As Mason Lino has departed for Newcastle Knights, Keighran is likely to take Lino's reserve grade spot where he will partner Chanel Harris-Tavita in the Warriors halves. In 2018, Harris-Tavita featured heavily in the ISC Warriors team as a half, despite being eligible for Jersey Flegg and it was Harris-Tavita who offered consistency while Lino went up an down between NRL and reserve grade.
The Warriors have let Junior Pauga go to Wynnum Manly Seagulls in Queensland's reserve grade competition and Anthony Gelling has also departed for Widnes Vikings, perhaps opening opportunities up at centre. This season though, there was a love-triangle at centre in the NRL group with Solomone Kata, Peta Hiku and Gerard Beale fighting for two spots and in the wider squad, Blake Ayshford and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad are still capable of offering depth.
There is also a young wave who will bump up to reserve grade from Flegg footy next year, with the best centre prospect being Patrick Elia from Christchurch. With plenty of young halves prospects coming up through the Mt Smart production line, you make the same case of depth in the halves but Keighran provides a bit more experience and maturity than the youngins.
That little nugget about Patrick Herbert could be crucial as well, given that Herbert is primarily a centre. Having played centre, wing and fullback with Illawara Steelers (Dragons reserve grade) that signing would only increase the chances that Keighran’s being signed as a half. Herbert was signed by the Dragons out of 1st 15 rugby for St Kents in Auckland and his signing would be a fabulous nod of approval to the changes at Mt Smart.
Who steps into Lino's 'next up' position at the Warriors will be interesting battle to keep tabs on as we approach next season. Both Keighran and Harris-Tavita have spent a fair amount of time playing in reserve grade despite their age, meaning that this could depend on whether it is Blake Green or Shaun Johnson out injured and who is best equipped to fill that role. Last season Lino filled all the halves roles, which is a credit to him and also due to Harris-Tavita steadily learning his craft in reserve grade.
As Keighran's signing coincides with the SJ7 news, you could view this as the Warriors loading up on young halves to cover Johnson. Just like reporting that the Warriors are 'dumping' Johnson is a bit dramatic, it's also dramatic to suggest that Keighran gives more reason to allow Johnson to chase other opportunities. The Warriors lost an NRL-ready half in Lino and have welcomed someone who appears to be NRL-ready in Keighran.
Another area of the Warriors roster that is deeper than Lake Taupo, is the bench utility role and because of that, I can't see Keighran getting too many of those opportunities. The Warriors played with Jazz Tevaga coming off the bench this season and they will welcome back Nathaniel Roache at some stage soon, then factor in Karl Lawton and this will be a highly competitive battle for the #14 jersey.
With the winds of change blowing the best staff into Mt Smart, we are seeing the Warriors flex their recruitment muscles. Keighran is very similar to Lawton in the sense that he is a young Aussie who wants a crack and may also benefit from leaving the comfort zone. Note that the Warriors haven't signed older Australian and appear to be very specific in what type of Australian player they are signing.
Keighran's arrival will take the Aussie count at Mt Smart up to four players; Keighran, Lawton, Ayshford and Blake Green. Green was the only Aussie to consistently play NRL footy and anyone talking about the growth of the Warriors, needs to celebrate the lack of Aussies.
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Peace and love 27.