League: Warriors look to solve halves problem with Moon signing

By Michael Brown

The Warriors have moved to try to solve their problems in the halves with the signing yesterday of Brisbane's highly-rated utility player Joel Moon.

The 21-year-old has signed a three-year deal and will join Broncos team-mate Denan Kemp as well as Cowboys second-rower Jacob Lillyman at Mt Smart next season.

Although Moon has played mainly as centre since making his Broncos debut in 2006, his preferred position is five-eighth. He has also played in the back row or at halfback, as he did in the Broncos' 19-18 win over the Wests Tigers on Friday night.

"I've been told I'll have the chance to play in my preferred position in the halves and I'm really excited about that," Moon said.

"I'm also excited about moving to a new city and joining a club that has such huge potential with so many good players."

The Warriors have struggled in the halves since the departure of Stacey Jones at the end of 2005 and Moon's signing comes on the back of speculation the club are looking to offload Grant Rovelli and Michael Witt.

Both have one year left on their contracts but it's believed the Warriors have sought expressions of interest from other clubs in two players who have struggled to provide the direction and creativity that is needed.

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah declined to comment on the futures of Witt and Rovelli.

"We haven't finalised our squad for next year but we are committed to improving our depth," he said. "That doesn't necessarily have implications for current players."

The Warriors have also retained Junior Warriors captain and five-eighth Daniel O'Regan and prop Mataupu Poching until 2009 and 2010 respectively. Both will be ineligible for the under-20 competition next season so will step up to the full NRL squad.

What has been a feature of the Warriors recruitment to date is the signing of young players who are already established first-graders. Kemp is 21 and Lillyman 24.

Moon made his NRL debut just three weeks after his 18th birthday and has played 23 NRL games, scoring seven tries. He has sparked interest from other clubs in that time, most notably from the Storm during his first season in 2006, but decided to stay with the Broncos.

The Dragons, who welcome Broncos coach Wayne Bennett next season, were also keen to sign Moon for 2009.

"It's exciting for us to know we'll have a player of his ability in our squad," Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said. "Joel has been highly regarded from the time he was first noticed. This is a real coup for the club and we certainly see him providing great value for us."

The Warriors have been particularly active in the market and the recruitment of Moon, Lillyman and Kemp is complemented by the retention of Steve Price, Wade McKinnon, Manu Vatuvei, Aidan Kirk, Sonny Fai, Russell Packer and Ben Matulino.

Ruben Wiki, Logan Swann, Wairangi Koopu, Michael Crockett and Ryan Shortland will all finish up with the club at the end of the season.

Scurrah said they were still on the lookout for players for next season.

"I'm not sure how many more. There won't be too many more changes," he said. "But we are looking at our options at the moment and are really committed to getting the best squad we can for next season."

It's a shame the three signings won't be joining until next season because the Warriors' chances of making the top eight are hanging by a thread.

They have lost four of their last five games and go into today's match against a Manly side who have run into some hot form.

- Herald on Sunday

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