League: Warriors lure two Sharks into net

By Michael Brown

Halfback Townsend and back-rower Bukuya looking for more impact and game time at Mt Smart Stadium.

Chad Townsend is hoping to make his presence felt in the halves at the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Chad Townsend is hoping to make his presence felt in the halves at the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

Like most good halfbacks, Chad Townsend is a bit yappy, a bit lippy.

He hopes he gets a chance to clear the lungs with the Warriors next season because he hasn't done it as often as he might like at Cronulla.

The 21-year-old was one of two Sharks players signed recently to relocate to Mt Smart Stadium.

For Townsend, it was a need for a change of scenery and to get out of his comfort zone that convinced him to move. For Jayson Bukuya, it was the fact he felt wanted for the first time in his career.

Bukuya looms as the player with more of a chance to make an immediate impact with the Warriors, considering he has played close to 50 NRL games and can be seen as something of a direct replacement for Elijah Taylor who is joining Ivan Cleary at Penrith next season.

The 23-year-old has been compared to Kiwis back-rower Jeremy Smith - hard working and powerful - and has a fan in Warriors coach Matt Elliott.

"I have been a fan of his for a couple of years and think he's really under-utilised [at Cronulla]." Elliott said. "He's got some real penetration offensively and is a really strong guy so I'm pretty chuffed about that one."

Bukuya has played 10 games this season but mostly as an interchange player and he averages 47 minutes a game.

For Bukuya, who played for Fiji as a teenager at the 2008 World Cup, the decision to relocate to Auckland was easy.

"Mainly because Matty [Elliott] and the Warriors showed a lot of interest in me and I've never really had that from a club before," he said. "When I was always coming off contract before, I was coming out of a couple of bad years with injuries. It made things harder to get other clubs chasing me but now I have had a couple of good years of injury-free footy, the Warriors showed good interest and I just took up the opportunity. I'm definitely looking for more minutes."

Townsend will take any minutes these days. He has played two games this season but has otherwise had to sit behind Todd Carney and Jeff Robson.

He has played 16 NRL games since his debut in 2011 - he also captained the Junior Kangaroos that year - but understands there are no guarantees of game time with the Warriors.

Carney was courted aggressively by a number of clubs recently, including the Warriors, but recently penned a new five-year deal to stay with the Sharks. But Townsend still thinks he would have opted for a move away even if Carney had signed to play elsewhere in 2014.

"I have been at the Sharks my whole career," he said. "It's all I know at the moment.

"The Warriors are an opportunity but also a change. I need a change of scenery and to move out of my comfort zone. It will be a chance to mature a bit more as a person and footballer."

Townsend was mindful of the success James Maloney had after moving to Mt Smart Stadium. Maloney arrived at the Warriors after playing in only four games for Melbourne but is now the incumbent with the NSW Origin side.

Townsend will enter into an increasingly congested halves picture at the Warriors. A lot still depends on whether they capture England fullback Sam Tomkins, and the signs are good, but Townsend could find himself competing with Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai and Kevin Locke for one of two positions.

It's exactly what Elliott wants.

"I want competition right across the squad," he said. "We have guys back in Vulcans now who are asking questions of the first grade side. I want to have those awkward moments often."

- APNZ

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