The early bird gets the worm.
Maybe the Warriors see themselves as the worm rather than the bird.
Managing director Jim Doyle and the Warriors brass are leaving an awful lot to chance when it comes to their 2018 roster. While other teams have already picked up some of the best free agents the Warriors continue to hold out waiting for star halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran to decide where they want to play next year and beyond.
One can easily understand why the Warriors are holding off. Elite halves are not easy to find and both are a serious chance of re-signing with the club. The risk however is that the Warriors can't do much else while they wait and there is no guarantee one or even both won't opt to sign with an Australian club.
The Warriors really need to address a major shortage of go-forward by inking a big bopper or two. They also need to fine-tune their outside back stocks but they don't know how much cap space they will have to play with until they either re-sign their halves or move in a different direction.
In the meantime the pick of the free agent players are signing elsewhere. Star Kiwi forwards Jesse Bromwich and Jason Taumalolo have re-signed with the Storm and Cowboys respectively. Could the Warriors have thrown a little more of the money they have set aside for Foran to tempt one or other big man to make the move back to New Zealand?
They also continue to wait on off-contract prop James Gavet, who was a little quieter against the Raiders than he was the previous two weeks but still asked the most questions of the Warrior big men. I don't understand holding off on Gavet. He's cheap. In fact just getting a first grade contract might be a bit of a coup for a guy who has tripped from Auckland, to the Bulldogs, to the Tigers and Brisbane before coming back to Auckland and he's only 27. Gavet has been a stand out for the Warriors this season, easily proving the most effective go-forward man in their pack. The Warriors won't hurt their available cap space by offering Gavet a minimum salary or close to - they have to have 25 first grade contracts on at least minimum salary anyway. Locking him up before another club sees a possible bargain would be a start while they wait on their halves.
Doyle has to put a line in the sand with his negotiations with Johnson and Foran as well. Even with the current roster (and Foran on a much-reduced contract) the Warriors don't look like title contenders. They need to further improve the roster not just ensure the two halves come back and the status quo remains. If they wait and one or other half opts to go elsewhere (and surely that is likely given Foran's family situation) the Warriors will be steering down the barrel of having a worse roster than what they currently have and going backwards next year. Imagine how bad it could be if both Johnson and Foran leave? It is awfully late in the piece to be trying to find a completely new halves combination.
I can understand Doyle not wanting to pressure Johnson and Foran to make a decision but the longer it is left the worse it is for the Warriors. Perhaps the Warriors should have made some serious enquiries with other halves - if it is good enough for the players to look at all their options so to it should be for the club. Jack Bird has just signed with the Broncos and reportedly spoke to a number of other suitors - the Warriors were never mentioned however. Who knows? Maybe the Warriors have had some conversations with other halves but they certainly aren't admitting that publicly.
Foran's decision is complicated by his kids being in Sydney. One would assume his most likely options are Sydney or Auckland. In Sydney only really the Bulldogs look like a naturally better fit from a football perspective and it is known he is close with coach Des Hasler. It is hard to see any other Sydney club having as much cap space or being as good a fit as the Bulldogs. The Storm have been mentioned and so too Newcastle though what difference is there between Auckland and Melbourne when it comes to the kids? Newcastle is out of Sydney but closer for family reasons but does Foran really want to join a club in rebuild mode rather than a contender?
Johnson's situation is different. He has a partner in Auckland and has often spoken about a desire to take the Warriors all the way. He has recently admitted to talking to other clubs but didn't go into specifics. Melbourne surely loom as a real option - with Cooper Cronk's departure freeing up cap space and Melbourne's impressive roster Johnson could earn good money and have a shot at winning titles with the Storm. He too could look at a place like the Bulldogs but rumour has it they're more interested in Cronk and Foran as well as off-contract Tigers Aaron Woods and James Tedesco. The Roosters could also be a fit for Johnson though he might need to look at playing fullback there with Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary firing in the halves. Many people have mentioned the Wests Tigers as a destination for Johnson given his links to former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. I don't see that as a better option for the former Golden Boot winner. The Warriors will have as much cap space as the Tigers and surely they are a better shot at winning a title than the rebuilding Tigers next year.
While these two star halves decide on their playing futures the Warriors are left twiddling their thumbs. By the time they make their choice - and even if it is to stay in Auckland - it may be too late for the Warriors to get them any help for 2018.