For the first time in a number of years the Warriors are facing the prospect of losing a glut of frontline players to other clubs, and the playing group are well aware of what’s coming.
Already former captain Ryan Hoffman has been told his services won’t be required beyond this season, while Kieran Foran and Ben Matulino are almost certain to be lost to Sydney clubs.
— Stuff.co.nz Sport (@NZStuffSport) April 20, 2017
In addition to that, NRL staples Bodene Thompson, Jacob Lillyman, Charlie Gubb, James Gavet, Blake Ayshford and Nathaniel Roache remain unsigned for 2018, while young talents Albert Vete and Tuimoala Lolohea are out of favour with coach Stephen Kearney and unlikely to remain at Mount Smart Stadium.
For prop Sam Lisone it shapes as a tough situation as he prepares to bid farewell to several close friends, most of whom he progressed through the Warriors’ junior system with.
“Yeah that is the sad thing, I don’t know, they are all first-graders all my mates, so if they have to go somewhere else to play first grade then I would understand that,” Lisone said.
“I know all of them are first-graders, if they were at other teams they would be playing first grade, it’s just the tough competition over here [that means they aren’t].
“Me and Albie Vete are real close mates, and Nate Roache, actually most of the boys, we all came through the under-20s together so it would be sad to see them go, but it’s just the game we play.
“It’s sad, I don’t want to see them go… [but] I am sure we will still give each other stick from wherever they are [in the world].
Q&A | Albert Vete on fatherhood, the idea of switching back to union & plans for the future. (@PhotosportNZ)
— KiwiLeagueCentral (@KiwiLeague) October 2, 2016
Current Warriors reserve-grade halfback Mason Lino is one of the off-contract players you are unlikely to hear much about, yet his form right now has him sitting among the best playmakers in the Intrust Super Premiership (NSW Cup).
Currently the fourth-choice half at the Kiwi franchise, behind Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and fellow youngster Mafoa’aeata Hingano, Lino is prepared to move on in search of NRL opportunities.
The 23-year-old said a big positive for the off-contract Warriors not currently in the NRL picture is that the club’s reserve-grade side sit on top of the competition ladder right now.
“It’s good not just for me but for the other boys who are in the part-time setup as well, they are all trying to find gigs and this looks good on the CV,” Lino said.
“Obviously it is stressful not knowing where your future is, but it keeps you on your toes and means you have to keep working hard and playing well.
“It’s do-or-die in these situations [for your career].”