Warriors face fight to keep captain Mannering
The Warriors have a fight on their hands to keep record-setting captain Simon Mannering as Australian NRL and UK Super League clubs circle to snap up the star player.
Mannering - who recently became the most capped Warriors captain, eclipsing Steve Price's 91-game record in the process - is off contract at the end of this season. The Kiwis captain, who has been linked with a move to rugby union in the past, is expected to stick with league for at least two more years.
But sources close to Mannering suggest he harbours a strong desire to travel and an interest in rugby.
He may look to fulfil those ambitions at the conclusion of his next rugby league deal.
The Warriors cannot afford to lose Mannering and want to know sooner rather than later whether he is interested in re-signing. Negotiations opened before last year's World Cup and it's understood the Warriors are prepared to give their skipper a significant payrise.
Warriors boss Wayne Scurrah said last night the club was hopeful Mannering could be enticed to stay put in Auckland.
"We had some discussions last season and then put them on hold until after the World Cup," Scurrah said.
"Simon had a decent break and since then we've re-engaged and are committed to doing our best to re-sign him.
"We have nothing to announce yet. But Simon's a passionate Kiwi, a great club man and we would absolutely love him to stay."
If Mannering was to part ways with the New Zealand-based NRL club it would be disastrous.
He is the only player to win the club's player of the year award three times, doing so in 2008, 2011 and 2013, and is one of the team's most consistent and tough performers.
Mannering has hardly missed a game in 192 appearances since his debut in 2005 and only needs eight more games to become just the second player at the Warriors to play 200 matches.
He also ranks among the Warriors' all-time leading try scorers with 43.
Warriors coach Matt Elliott recently said of Mannering: "He is one of the best back-rowers in the comp and I'm not saying that because I'm his coach, it's just a fact. What he does for the team that goes unnoticed, as well as the stuff that is noticed is unbelievable and that helps you lead." Mannering cannot be blamed for wanting to carefully consider his next step.
This contract, wherever he signs, will undoubtedly be the biggest of his career. He is 27 and the next deal could see him enter the final stage of his league career. He also has more than himself to think about these days, with partner, Anna, having a baby boy in September last year.
While Mannering would be an attractive signing for New Zealand-based Super Rugby franchises, it is more likely he would seek out a lucrative offshore contract.
Rugby comes naturally to Mannering. He was born in Napier but grew up in Nelson and played in the first XV for Nelson College.
His Australian-based agent Steve Gillis confirmed in the past he had been approached with offers from rugby sides.
Gillis said the lengthy negotiations with the Warriors were nothing out of the ordinary.
"Players of Simon's calibre and experience who are off contract have plenty of interest in them," he said. "Some negotiations are done quickly. Some are protracted. It is just a matter of working through things." Negotiations were not being drawn out to get more money.
"We don't jump through the hoops for nothing. He has got to feel comfortable." Gillis said there was no particular sticking point for either the Warriors or Mannering but the star player's perspective on life had changed with the birth of his son.
"Obviously this contract is an important one for him. He is weighing up his options." Gillis said it was not to say that Mannering was about to "jump out of the Warriors" and he acknowledged the club had backed him since the start.
Mannering had "plenty more" years in him but travel was something that interested him.