It's a common refrain among fans before their team's season begins: this is going to be our year.

But last week, ahead of the new NRL campaign, that most hopeful of sporting sentiments was slightly adjusted for long-suffering Warriors supporters: next year is going to be our year.

Sure, when the Warriors are involved, any optimistic statement is generally delivered with tongue at least near cheek. But on this occasion, there was also cause for some confidence as fans cast their eyes beyond next month's season-opener against Newcastle and all the way to 2018.

The signing of Melbourne Storm forward Tohu Harris on a four-year deal will next season only increase the promising Kiwi core playing under Stephen Kearney at Mt Smart. But 'next season' is the key term in that sentence.


These type of delayed recruitments are common in the NRL but the convention of the transaction removes none of its peculiarity. Harris will play one more year for the Storm while player, team and soon-to-be new side all know how that year will end.

It's an arrangement rife with pitfalls for all parties. Even if Harris remains "committed to the playing group", as Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said, he would have to be hypnotised to prevent his thoughts from prematurely drifting across the Tasman.

Even if the Storm are content to enjoy one last year of Harris before losing him to a competition rival, what happens if he suffers a prolonged slump in form? Surely eyebrows would be raised among teammates and management alike.

And, speaking of regression, how do the Warriors know the player who put pen to paper last week will be the same showing up in 12 months? Athletes in collision sports, after all, sustain injuries that permanently diminish their abilities. Will Harris' contract seem so appealing under those circumstances?

The whole scenario is bizarre and apparently unique in the world of sport.

Imagine, for a moment, player movement like this translated to a land where sport is more tribal. Footballing great Luis Figo famously had a pig's head thrown at him when, as a Real Madrid player, he returned to the Nou Camp; would Figo have even been allowed to wear a Barcelona shirt had the transfer been announced 12 months before his departure?

Threats to personal safety aside, it also raises serious questions about an exiting player's motivation. Basketball fans around America will be eagerly watching tomorrow as Golden State's Kevin Durant plays in Oklahoma City for the first time. But what if Durant spent last season playing for Thunder with his future already determined?

Is there any chance he would have led OKC to the verge of an incredible upset over the record-setting Warriors in the playoffs? And if Durant had somehow remained totally committed to the teammates he was about to leave, there's no way that feeling would have been reciprocated.

Durant and Russell Westbrook - who had played their entire careers together - still haven't spoken since the former turned his back on the latter. Do we really think, in this alternative universe, Westbrook would have shrugged off Durant's imminent exit and maintained a harmonious relationship?

There probably would have been a punch-up in the locker room and, although cooler heads will undoubtedly prevail with Harris in Melbourne, there seems no benefit to a protocol like the one that exists in the NRL.

No benefit, at least, for Storm supporters, who now have every right to regard Harris as a pariah. As for Warriors fans, 2018 can't come soon enough.