Star Rooster on Warriors’ wish list to replace RTS
Sydney Roosters star centre Joey Manu has emerged as a potential left-field target to fill Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's giant boots at the New Zealand Warriors.
Melbourne's flying fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen is also on the Warriors' wish list as recruitment guru Peter O'Sullivan commences his search for a new marquee man to replace the rugby bound Kiwi superstar.
While neither Manu or Papenhuyzen come off contract until the end of 2022, the Warriors are seriously weighing up whether to hold off spending the $1 million-plus a season Tuivasa-Sheck's exit will free up so they can go for a bigger name the following season.
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The issue if they go to market now is that no absolute top-shelf fullbacks are coming off contract this year.
The best options available at the end of 2021 include St George Illawarra's Matt Dufty, North Queensland's Scott Drinkwater, as well as Brisbane young guns Tesi Niu and Jesse Arthars.
With due respect to all, none yet have the on or off field presence of either Manu or Papenhuyzen, let alone Tuivasa-Sheck, which is why this is a real dilemma for the Warriors.
What they can't ignore is that Tuivasa-Sheck's departure also means the club has to find a player capable of becoming the new face rugby league in New Zealand.
This is where Manu could potentially fill the role perfectly.
At 24, Manu has already made his name as arguably the game's best centre, but has also proven himself as real class act every time he has filled in at fullback.
The Warriors also see him as a player who could be ideal from a marketing perspective given he's a Kiwi with a cleanskin image.
Manu also has a connection with O'Sullivan who originally signed him for the Roosters.
Sullivan also has a history with Papenhuyzen who he tried to sign for the Roosters when the then Oakhill College student was still at school.
Papenhuyzen was also offered to the Warriors two years ago when he was behind Drinkwater and Jahrome Hughes at the Storm, but at that point the Warriors thought Tuivasa-Sheck was going nowhere.
Manu has previously shown he is not only capable of playing fullback but he relishes the role.
Asked by a fan last November, he said on his YouTube channel: "(It's) very challenging fullback but it's always exciting to play there ... centre is probably my dominant position at the moment, so I'm really enjoying playing there ... I'm loving playing centre at the moment but I do enjoy playing fullback, too."
The Roosters obviously won't let him go without a fight given they made Manu a priority when he was coming off contract previously.
While Latrell Mitchell's future was left until the end of the season to sort out in 2019, Manu was locked up with a minimum of fuss.
If the Warriors go in this direction they might need to call on Peta Hiku to play fullback next year, which wouldn't be a perfect scenario.
While Hiku certainly has the game to do it, the question would be if he has the fitness to handle the weekly intensity.
Lack of football last year due to COVID has also delayed exciting prospect Rocco Berry's development.
Berry, the son of former All Black Marty, is seen as a star of the future but is expected to cut his teeth in the outside back positions at NRL level.
Originally published as Star Rooster on Warriors' wish list to replace RTS