Warriors watching James Graham and James Maloney

Bulldogs hard man James Graham may be just what the Warriors need on and off the field.

Bulldogs hard man James Graham may be just what the Warriors need on and off the field.

The Warriors have emerged as a potential home for James Graham if he is squeezed out of Belmore.

The Canterbury captain is contracted for next season, but the club's well-publicised salary cap pressures will require several players to leave.

Newcastle have been watching the Graham situation with interest, but the Warriors are another club that could  accommodate him. The Kiwi outfit will have money to spend when Kieran Foran, Ben Matulino and Ryan Hoffman depart, as well as banking the money they saved by releasing Manu Vatuvei and Tui Lolohea before June 30.

Former Warrior James Maloney has been a massive success at the Sharks.

Former Warrior James Maloney has been a massive success at the Sharks.

The Warriors have been one of the competition's biggest disappointments in recent years and could benefit from Graham's take-no-prisoners style of play. There's also a belief the English international's experience would be invaluable off the field as the Warriors attempt to build a winning culture.

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It has become obvious that change is required at the Warriors. They continue to underperform despite having the Kiwis spine of Foran, Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke.

While injuries have prevented the quartet stringing many games together, it is no excuse for the Warriors' lowly position on the ladder.

Graham is on about $1 million next year and the Bulldogs would have to pay some of his freight  to make him an attractive proposition to rival clubs.

Aside from releasing Sam Kasiano to Melbourne, they have been unable to offload any of their other stars on back-ended contracts.

Greg Eastwood, Moses Mbye and Morris twins Brett and Josh are the players who would free up most cap space, but rivals are keeping their powder dry in the expectation there will be a fire sale at Belmore. 

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One player the Bulldogs wouldn't have trouble shifting if he was to become available is form prop David Klemmer.

The Warriors are also keen on James Maloney if he becomes a free agent. The Cronulla playmaker is also contracted for next year, but feels he isn't being paid his market worth.

Maloney made his name at the Warriors, helping to steer the side to a grand final during his stint across the Tasman. However the Sharks won't be letting him go unless a suitable replacement – Storm star Cooper Cronk is the signature they most crave – can be found.

With cash to splash, the Warriors are after Graham or Maloney as their marquee buy, as well as a couple of additional recruits to bolster their squad.

Meanwhile, having coached David Kidwell when he was a fiery forward, Brian Smith knows the passion he brings to the game. It's that very same quality that convinced Smith to reunite with Kidwell for New Zealand's World Cup campaign.

As we revealedin June, Smith will make his return to top-level coaching alongside Kidwell to help oversee the Kiwis' preparations for the season-ending tournament. It will be the first time they have worked together since Kidwell played under Smith at Parramatta during the 1999-2000 seasons.

"It was a fair while ago and it's amazing to see where he's at now and how much passion he has," Smith said. "His passion for coaching is quite incredible. He loves it and is a proud fella. He's got a great plan for the crew that will be in that squad and I'm pleased I'm able to assist him in some ways.

"I wasn't sitting around waiting for a job for the World Cup, but the way he pitched his plan and the areas he wanted me to assist him in sounded like fun without all the responsibilities of an NRL coach."

Smith is considered one of the most technically astute coaches in the game and will bring with him the experience that comes with 582 games in charge at NRL level. The former Steelers, Dragons, Eels, Knights and Roosters coach has enjoyed watching the footy away from the pressure cooker that is being a first-grade clipboard holder.

"I still have a passion for the game, but I'm a bit of a cold turkey guy," he said. "I finished up at the Roosters and kept some interest going, but I don't watch games like a coach until someone asks me ... Most of the time I just sit and watch and enjoy the game."

 - The Sun-Herald


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