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Warriors unwilling to part with Vatuvei, Mateo

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013
Manu Vatuvei
CHRIS HILLOCK/FAIRFAX NZ
TRY TIME: Manu Vatuvei celebrates scoring a try for the Warriors.

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Before a ball has been kicked, a pass thrown or a shoulder illegally smashed into someone's face, two of the Warriors' biggest stars have been linked elsewhere.

Manu Vatuvei and Feleti Mateo are both in the last years of their contracts.

Vatuvei has been connected with moves to Japan, England and France to play rugby, while there is speculation Mateo is looking to head back to Australia.

It's possible he will reunite with St George Illawarra, though Penrith are also believed to be interested in him.

Both players played well in the 32-18 loss to Penrith Panthers in Hamilton on Saturday and they will no doubt have offers galore thrown at them from both codes as the year progresses. Neither are players the Warriors want to let go.

Chief executive Wayne Scurrah said negotiations with Mateo's representatives kicked off late last year and that re-signing Vatuvei was a priority.

"They are key players for us," Scurrah told Fairfax Media.

"We had some discussions with Feleti's agent pre-Christmas and we'll keep talking to him.

"We are also fully conscious that Manu is off contract as well and he's been an integral player at the club for nearly 10 years now."

Other Warriors players in the last year of their contracts include Elijah Taylor, Russell Packer, Steve Rapira, Jerome Ropati, Kevin Locke, Nathan Friend and Carlos Tuimavave.

Some of them the Warriors will clearly want to re-sign.

For others it will be a case of coach Matt Elliott and Dean Bell, general manager football operations, seeing how they perform this season.

Elliott has inherited a squad that was almost complete when he joined the club.

He may feel like he wants to put his own stamp on the team for 2014.

"We have got a few on option or off contracts," said Scurrah.

"We have got a brand new coach and quite a different looking roster.

"I imagine a lot of it will be Matt wanting to see them play.

"We have got a couple of guys on injured list now so I'd think that would change the dynamics a bit too.

"So I'd think Matt and Dean will assess this year's performances for as long as they can before they make some moves and some guys, like always, will be prioritised over others."

Although it will take time for Elliott to fully assess the quality of his players, Scurrah doesn't feel this will put the club behind others looking to snap players on the market for 2014.

"There are lots of new coaches in clubs this year and our coaches are pretty familiar with a lot of players, even if they haven't coached them," he said.

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"It is just seeing where the salary cap fits and where they sit in the roster.

"We meet on a very regular basis regarding recruitment and where we sit in the salary cap.

"I don't think it would be appropriate to have next year's roster locked in before we've played a game in 2013.

Meanwhile, Scurrah said he had no concerns over Elliott's link with Stephen Dank, the controversial sports scientist at the centre of the Australian Sports Anti Doping Agency's major investigation into performance enhancing drugs in the NRL.

Penrith are one of the six NRL clubs under investigation by ASADA and this is because Dank had a couple of meetings with Elliott when he was Penrith coach.

Elliott insisted on Thursday that he never discussed anything of a dubious nature with Dank and Scurrah is confident that his coach has done nothing wrong.

"Matt was there some time ago and there have been no specific details come out," he said.

"We are very comfortable with where our club is and Matt has already said he has no concerns about his time at Penrith either."

- Fairfax Media

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