The New Zealand Warriors’ twin coups in recruiting Kiwi Test stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke in recent weeks have shaken up the roster situation and recruitment plans at several NRL clubs.
The capture of gun fullback Tuivasa-Sheck devastated his current club, Sydney Roosters, who developed him from a promising teenager into one of the most talented outside-backs in the competition – and groomed him as a long-term successor to retired club legend Anthony Minichiello.
While the Roosters are yet to unveil a permanent replacement for RTS’ soon-to-be vacant custodian role, the money freed up from his return to Auckland has contributed to the club today announcing the re-signing of stalwart three-quarter Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
Kenny-Dowall has been a member of the Roosters’ first grade side as long as any other player, debuting in the opening round of 2007 – the same game as Mitch Aubusson, and a week before Mitchell Pearce. Now a veteran of 185 games for the club, Kenny-Dowall recently became just the third player in club history (after Bill Mullins and Minichiello) to notch a century of tries.
The long-striding centre was one of New Zealand’s standouts in the Anzac Test thrashing of Australia, his 14th appearance in the black-and-white jumper.
In contrast to Tuivasa-Sheck’s acrimonious exit, South Sydney granted dynamic hooker Luke a compassionate release from the final two years of his contract to allow him the opportunity to return to his homeland.
But that decision has reportedly had a major impact on St George Illawarra. The Dragons have apparently secured the signature of outstanding young rake Cameron McInnes, but he is almost certain to back-flip on that deal now that he has a free run at the plum dummy-half role with the Rabbitohs from next season.
After letting Apisai Koroisau, who replaced the suspended Luke in last year’s Grand Final-winning line-up, head to Penrith at the end of last year, Souths will undoubtedly ramp up their bid to retain the highly-rated McInnes – which the NRL’s contentious ‘Round 13 rule’ allows them to do.
The Saints will assuredly be furious that the archaic rule is destined to rob them of a blue-chip recruit.
But the kerfuffle will matter little to the Warriors, who will field three members of the dominant Kiwi Test team’s spine from 2016. Despite the spending spree, the club has indicated there could be more signing news on the horizon. Tuivasa-Sheck was virtually a straight swap for big-money fullback Sam Tomkins, while the Auckland-based outfit unsuccessfully threw bags of cash at Kieran Foran, Jason Taumololo and Trent Merrin, so there may be at least one more high-profile recruit to be added for next season. ‘
The likes of Glen Fisiiahi, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Dominique Peyroux, Suaia Matagi, Nathan Friend, Jonathan Wright and standout rookie Albert Vete are fighting for new deals with the Warriors, while Tomkins and Sam Rapira have already signed Super League deals and Chad Townsend is likely to return to Sydney for family reasons.