Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei wants to remain a one-club player and says beleaguered coach Andrew McFadden deserves a contract extension.
Speculation was rife yesterday that Vatuvei was ready to announce his shock departure from the Warriors, after reports earlier this week he was being shopped around to rival NRL, UK Super League and Japanese rugby clubs.
As reported by the Herald on Monday, Warriors management and Vatuvei's player agent denied the rumours, and the 30-year-old has reinforced his determination to finish his career at the Warriors, the club he joined as a 14-year-old.
"Definitely, that's my goal," he told Tony Veitch in a wide-ranging interview to be aired on Newstalk ZB today. "That's where I want to finish up at, with the Warriors.
"I just laughed about it. I didn't even read anything [to do with the reports]. I was just trying to stay off social media for a bit but they [Warriors management] came and asked me, and said 'what's happening with you, why are you leaving?', and I said, 'nah, I've been here with you this whole time so why would I be shopping around'?"
Vatuvei's future at the club had been clouded after he was dropped to reserve grade and stood down from Kiwis test selection for his involvement in the recent prescription pills and energy drinks scandal.
He served his penance in the second-tier Intrust Super Premiership match against the Bulldogs on May 1 but the following day was granted a week's medical leave to deal with personal issues after reacting angrily to criticism via social media.
He returned to Warriors training on May 9 but was not available for games against Penrith and Canberra. He hopes to make his playing return against Brisbane next Saturday.
"Physically I'm there," he said. "Mentally, there's a question if I will be ready. If I'm not ready, I don't want to let the team down and I don't want to go out there and play if I'm mentally not strong. We'll see how things go next week and make a call then."
Having accepted his punishment, Vatuvei reaffirmed his commitment to the club and denied suggestions of a divide in the playing group.
He rates McFadden among the best coaches he's had in a 12-year NRL career and says the club should keep him for several more seasons.
Since debuting in 2004, Vatuvei has played under six coaches at the Warriors, not including Tony Iro who took charge as acting head coach for two games at the end of 2012.
"Andrew is one of the best coaches I've ever had. He'd be in my top two [together with] Ivan Cleary. Definitely, I can say that with a lot of confidence.
"It takes time and I reckon he deserves a few more years at the club and things will change. This year is not over and the boys have just got to perform better and do well."
McFadden's no-nonsense style was sometimes difficult for young players to accept.
"With other players, he's been really hard, but that's how coaches are supposed to be. Some boys can't handle what he says sometimes, but that's part of a coach's [job]. He's got to bring the best out of you and drill you all the time."
A players-only crisis meeting midweek revealed some younger members felt awkward about speaking their mind to senior players and Vatuvei conceded the side's leaders needed to be more open and approachable.
"We just sat down and let all the young boys talk and the senior players sat back. "We've just got to show them that we can listen. We're there to help them, not to intimidate them all the time and we've just got to work together as a team."