The Warriors have cleared the way for a possible approach to stranded New Zealand World Cup star Greg Eastwood by releasing forward Epalahame Lauaki to Hull FC.
In a move that provides insurance should Michael Crocker fail in his appeal against the refusal of his British work permit to play in Super League, Hull officials last night announced the signing of Lauaki on a three-year deal.
However, Hull coach Richard Agar and chief executive James Rule insisted the 25-year-old Tongan international was not a replacement for Crocker, whom they were hopeful would be cleared to join the club soon.
Lauaki, who has taken the fourth and last place on Hull's import quota after the departure of former Cronulla and Parramatta five-eighth Adam Dykes, is waiting on his application for a British visa.
So far Crocker, Eastwood, sacked Canberra halfback Todd Carney and ex-Cronulla international Greg Bird have been refused work visas to play in Super League - leaving their careers in limbo.
Should Eastwood, who left the Broncos at the end of last season after signing with Leeds, fail in his second attempt after the rejection of an application for an ancestry visa - reportedly due to a string of speeding offences - the Warriors have expressed an interest in him returning to his birthplace of Auckland.
Eastwood has also indicated he would be keen to play for the Warriors, who already had some room to move under the salary cap after the tragic disappearance of Sonny Fai, who is presumed drowned.
The departure of Lauaki, who had two years remaining on his contract, frees up more money to sign a player of the calibre of 21-year-old Eastwood, who has won a premiership and a World Cup final.
Hull officials said they expected Lauaki to be granted a visa within 25 days after which he would fly immediately to England.
"Hame is a player we identified to fill that quota spot and having agreed a deal with him he now replaces Dykes," Rule said. "Adam Dykes's quota place has been vacant since he returned to Australia and we have been actively looking to fill it. He [Lauaki] is not a replacement for Michael Crocker, who we still hope is successful with his visa reapplication and will join us."
Lauaki, whose brother Sione plays for the All Blacks, said: "Playing in the UK is something I have always wanted to do but I didn't want to come at the end of my career."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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