Allwood's arrival a danger for Ropati, Nielsen

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2014
Matt Allwood
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ON HIS WAY: Matt Allwood, in action for the Raiders, fends off future Warriors teammate Ben Henry.

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The signing of Matt Allwood from the Raiders could spell the end of Jerome Ropati's time at the Warriors and put more pressure on Dane Nielsen.

The club announced last week that they had picked up the rookie centre on a three-year deal. Despite having played just nine NRL games, Sunday News understands the Warriors again had to make a generous offer to bring an Australian to Auckland.

Allwood has been relegated to reserve-grade footy the past two weeks by Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, but is a player who could have a big future.

Defence is his main strength, although he is powerful and quick with the ball in hand.

"The Warriors are obviously a very good team, they're a side that's going places and I'm excited to be a part of it," Allwood said.

Allwood will become one of several Warriors players capable of playing centre next season.

As well as Konrad Hurrell and Ngani Laumape, who filled those spots in last night's game against the Titans, there are also Ben Henry, Nielsen and David Fusitua, while the club has an option for Dominique Peyroux next season, and there are some talented younger players coming through.

Despite committing his future to the Warriors, Allwood says he wasn't given any promises from the coaches about how much game time he would get.

"There's no guaranteed spot and that's the same with any club you go to," he said.

"I'm coming there for the opportunity and hopefully I get a few games, but I'll leave it to them to figure out where I am."

But the Warriors wouldn't have gone after Allwood if they were happy with their current options.

The 29-year-old Ropati signed a one-year deal at the end of last season and again has had limited game time because of injuries.

In the past four seasons he has made just 18 appearances for the Warriors and hasn't played since breaking his jaw against the Tigers in March.

Coach Andrew McFadden says that, unlike other senior players coming off contract this season, they haven't started negotiations with Ropati.

"We'll wait and see how he pulls up physically," McFadden said. "He's obviously been dealt a lot of injuries previously, so it's a bit of a wait and see to see how he feels in himself."

McFadden admits he has more centre options than other NRL clubs, but he's continuing to search for the best players for the No 3 and 4 jerseys.

"We haven't locked down our centres yet and the opportunity is there for someone to take it," he said.

"I really believe Konrad is taking it at the moment and Ngani could be the other one who takes that opportunity, or it could be someone else.

"It's up to them, if they do the job consistently then I'll stick with them."

As for Nielsen, McFadden says he hasn't given up on him.

"He's still an option and he's still a part of our squad," he said.

"So he has as much chance as anyone else to take that position. All I'm saying is it's up to them to take it.

"He has had a shoulder problem he's been carrying for a couple of weeks," McFadden added.

"He played on the weekend and re-aggravated it, so we're going to take the conservative approach and make sure he's fit to give himself the best chance to push himself back into first grade."

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Nielsen's contract runs out at the end of next season and, if he can't get close to the form that led to him playing State of Origin for Queensland in 2011, then the Warriors may look to offload him, as they did with Russell Packer last year to Newcastle and Bill Tupou to the Raiders.

Nielsen is on big money and, if he's behind Laumape, Allwood, Hurrell and Henry in the pecking order, there's little point in keeping him. But if Nielsen was to move on, the Warriors would likely still have to pay a portion of his wages.

- Sunday News

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