After a poor month of results, the Warriors have received a boost off the field with the news that Melbourne Storm backrower Todd Lowrie has signed for two years.
Lowrie, who made his 158th NRL appearance in the Storm's 24-16 win over the Titans on Friday night, will join the Auckland-based club on a deal to the end of 2014.
His signing comes three months after team-mate Dane Nielsen was secured on a three-year contract and is a timely move. The club has gambled on an inexperienced roster this year and it has yet to pay off, with the team going backwards on the field after their grand final finish last year. There is huge potential at Mt Smart but a lack of NRL-hardened players, something that Lowrie hopefully represents.
"Coming to Melbourne was great for my career but I'm really excited about the move and about having my future sorted out for the next few years," says Lowrie. "I've always had huge respect for the Warriors as opponents. They've been tough rivals every time we play them."
Lowrie said a major attraction for signing with the Warriors was the club's home-grown talent pool.
"I've been impressed with their development programme," says Lowrie. "There are so many good young players coming through the club and I'm looking forward to the chance of being able to work with them."
Warrior's recruitment manager Dean Bell said Lowrie's signing was critical to the balance of the squad heading into 2013, especially with the retirement of Micheal Luck and the departure of Lewis Brown.
"We're losing huge experience in our back row," says Bell. "With over 150 games, Todd will be invaluable for us and he'll be tremendous help for the younger players. He builds our depth and makes sure there is real competition for places."
He certainly looks a ready-made replacement for Luck. At 1.87m and 98kg he is of almost identical build and has the same work ethic, with perhaps slightly more to offer on attack. A dependable performer at the Storm, with 58 appearances in three seasons at lock or second row, he recently admitted he has struggled, along with the rest of the team, during their surprise post-Origin slump.
"The start of the year was very pleasing. I thought I was going pretty well and probably playing some career-best footy, but I've been down the past [six weeks]," he told the Melbourne Age last week. "I think we've all been off and I take a bit of responsibility for that with my own performances [being] down."
He is a victim of Melbourne's heavily weighted salary cap structure; it is estimated that 45 per cent of their cap is spent on Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. That leaves at least 22 players sharing the rest, so it would not have been difficult for the Warriors to come up with a more attractive deal.
Lowrie, 29, could be described as an NRL journeyman but plenty with that description have prospered at Mt Smart. After growing up in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Lowrie started his career with the Newcastle Knights, making his debut in June 2003 and spending four seasons on the Central Coast before a three-year stint at Parramatta.
The Australian duo are joined by highly experienced Wigan playmaker Thomas Leuluai as the Warriors' major new signings for 2013.By Michael Burgess Email Michael