The New Zealand Warriors slumped to their fourth loss of the season following a last-minute thriller †against the North Queensland Cowboys, and despite worries about how the rest of this season is going to pan out, a more immediate worry is whether key player Chad Townsend will be hanging up his jersey for the team.
Townsend is off contract at season's end, which the Warriors will have until the round 13 deadline to pick up the option of re-signing him, but he could go even before then on compassionate grounds, as his girlfriend's mother has terminal cancer. The Warriors believe Townsend wonít leave during the season, but there is a lot of speculation that Townsend wonít extend his contract when it expires at the end of the year.
While Townsend has been one of the Warriors' leading performers this season, having 5 line breaks which is currently top ten in the NRL and has improved his overall game this year ó he still makes inexcusable errors, kicking the ball out on the full or knocking the ball on and killing the Warriors momentum, which is inexcusable for a player that I have always felt lacks the x-factor of a Johnson or a Hurrell.
Clearly Townsend will have many suitors on the market if does choose to head back home, particularly in Sydney, where he has been pursued by his old club Cronulla and possibly the Manly Sea Eagles.
If he does go, here are some of the options the Warriors have played through or are thinking of playing through to secure the sixth position.
Earlier in the season the Warriors reportedly made a big money offer to halfback Kieran Foran in hopes that he would take over their number six position, which he declined, going onto sign a much more lucrative contract with the Parramatta Eels.
Recent speculation has seen the Warriors in talks with their former number six James Maloney, but he has also turned them down. Other options for halves currently on the market include, Bulldog Trent Hodkinson and the Eels Chris Sandow, but the club believe that their best option to replace Townsend if he does leave will come from within their ranks ó rookie fullback Tui Lolohea.
Lolohea has been a star performer for the Junior Warriors at six, scoring an impressive 22 tries in his first season in the NYC competition and leading the team to the Grand Final. Unfortunately for Lolohea this season he has been played out of position at fullback, while starting fullback Sam Tomkins and backup fullback Glen Fisiiahi recover from injury and hasnít yet been given the opportunity to debut in the six position. A few rookie errors have plagued his season so far too, but when Tomkins and Fisiiahi do return, he will probably get a chance to showcase his skills in his proven position.
The Warriors have always known that Townsend's sealing isnít high and at best he is a solid player, hence their pursuit of Foran, a superstar in the game, and it is why they are banking on a potential superstar in Tuimoala Lolohea as their number six of the future.