NRL: Kevin Locke staying with Warriors

By Michael Brown

Kevin Locke. Photo / Richard Robinson
Kevin Locke. Photo / Richard Robinson

Fullback Kevin Locke is remaining with the Warriors next season and the club are also hoping Jerome Ropati signs on for another year after offering the centre a new deal.

Locke, who still has one year left on his present contract as well as an option for a further year, had been linked with a move away from Mt Smart Stadium after the club secured England fullback Sam Tomkins.

A handful of NRL clubs showed interest, including the Bulldogs, but nothing has eventuated and the Warriors have agreed with Locke that he will return in 2014. They wanted the matter resolved before the 24-year-old left with the Kiwis for the upcoming World Cup - the New Zealand team flew out of Sydney on Monday.

"We have told him that he's highly valued and want him to stay and he said he would love to stay,'' Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said. "It's been our intention to see him stay and compete for a first-grade spot next year.

"Kevin has consistently said he wants to stay and we have consistently said we want him to stay and that's where we have got to.''

Locke will provide backup at fullback, along with Glen Fisiiahi, and is interested in a move to the halves where he played his junior football. It's an increasingly congested picture there, however, with the impending arrival of Chad Townsend from Cronulla alongside Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai.

Locke could also play on the wing, where he has played at NRL level before, or as a utility off the interchange bench.

Ropati will be offered a one-year deal to extend his Warriors career into an 11th season. The 28-year-old has had a wretched time with injuries over the past three years, playing only 15 games, so it's expected he will be offered a vastly reduced contract from his last deal.

"It's our desire to keep Jerome,'' Scurrah said. "Everyone would acknowledge that he's had an injury-interrupted last period with us but we still think he's a more than capable player. He ticks all the boxes off the field so we would love him to have another chance at the club next year.''

The Warriors have freed up some room in the salary cap following the release of both Russell Packer and Todd Lowrie, who this week signed with the Broncos, and are on the lookout for centres and back-rowers for next season.

- APNZ

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