NRL: Warriors lure Bukuya from Sharks

Aggressive back-rower a catch but England fullback Tomkins is still the prime target

Jayson Bukuya (left) could be seen as a replacement for Elijah Taylor. Photo / Getty Images
Jayson Bukuya (left) could be seen as a replacement for Elijah Taylor. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors' main target for next season remains England fullback Sam Tomkins but they are on the verge of adding another player for 2014 with Cronulla back-rower Jayson Bukuya close to securing a two-year deal.

The 24-year-old is off contract with the Sharks and was entertaining offers from rival NRL clubs, but has opted to join the Warriors, who showed Bukuya and his partner around Auckland a month ago.

The deal could be completed by the weekend, said agent Sam Ayoub. "We are finalising it as we speak."

The Warriors appear to have missed out on another Cronulla target. Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that the Warriors offered more than $1 million a season to Todd Carney, who also knocked back a $4.5 million five-year deal with Penrith to stay with Cronulla.

Bukuya has played 42 games for Cronulla since his debut in 2008 and also helped Fiji to the semifinals at the 2008 World Cup. He's been used largely off the interchange bench this season, including the Sharks' 28-4 defeat of the Warriors when he ran a season-high 76m and laid on a try.

He is known as an aggressive and mobile back-rower in the mould of Sharks teammate Jeremy Smith. He is rated highly by Queensland State of Origin coach Mal Meninga, and has been included in wider Queensland sides.

Bukuya could be seen as a replacement for Elijah Taylor, who has already signed with Penrith.

There is also doubt whether Feleti Mateo, who is off contract, will re-sign. The Warriors are in talks with Mateo, but these have stalled and he is reportedly considering an offer from the Dragons. His wife is due to give birth to their first child and their desire to return to Australia to be close to family is strong.

The club has a number of decisions to make on players, with the likes of Jerome Ropati, Pita Godinet, Nathan Friend, Kevin Locke, Steve Rapira, Alehana Mara and Carlos Tuimavave off contract at the end of the season, although Friend has an option for 2014.

Yesterday the Warriors announced the re-signing of winger Manu Vatuvei on a new two-year deal that takes him through to the end of 2015.

The club has money to spend in the salary cap - which increases from A$5.85 million ($7.1 million) this season to A$6.3 million in 2014 - and will have to pay top dollar if it is to secure Tomkins.

He has three years left on his Wigan Warriors deal but wants to test himself in the NRL and Wigan have reportedly slapped a $250,000 transfer fee on the 24-year-old, who is also likely to command $750,000 a season. The Roosters and Titans have also entered the race to secure a player often described as the Billy Slater of the UK Super League.

- APNZ

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