The Warriors have ruled out Wigan halfback George Williams as a long-term replacement for Shaun Johnson.

The England international was touted by Australian media as a target high on the Warriors list earlier this week, as they seek to fill the experience vacuum in the halves created by Johnson's departure.

The 24-year-old Williams, who has played 10 tests for England, is looking to test himself in the NRL, following in the footsteps of English colleagues James Graham, Gareth Widdop and the Burgess brothers.

The Warriors have a history of signing players from the famed Lancashire club.

The Warriors have ruled out a move for Wigan's George Williams. Photo / Getty
The Warriors have ruled out a move for Wigan's George Williams. Photo / Getty

Dean Bell made his name in England and was a legend of Central Park before returning as inaugural Warriors captain in 1995, along with former All Black Frano Botica.

Andy Platt and Dennis Betts were also high profile signings in the mid-1990s — though neither lived up to their hefty price tags — while foundation coach John Monie spent four years at Wigan before coming to Auckland.

And Sam Tomkins arrived to much fanfare in 2014, with the Warriors making a record outlay to secure the Wigan fullback, but he left after two less-than-spectacular seasons, with one year remaining on his contract.

However, Warriors' football manager Brian Smith told the Herald that Williams is not on their radar.

"He [Williams] is not someone we are looking to pursue," said Smith. "I'm not sure where that story came from."'

The Warriors have cash to spend, but won't be rushed into a deal, and Smith emphasised they are still looking across all positions.

The pursuit of New Zealand-born Parramatta youngster Dylan Brown is also off the table, though that may be revisited if the playmaker became available in the future.

It seems unlikely that the Warriors will make a signing to replace Johnson during the 2019 season, with coach Stephen Kearney set to put his faith in former Australian Schoolboys representative Adam Keighran and Junior Kiwis half Chanel Harris-Tavita. Rotorua product Hayze Perham may also emerge as an option, though he has less game management experience.


If an experienced half comes on the market the Warriors will move quickly, but most of their focus is finding the right option for the 2020 season and beyond, as well as developing the young trio at the club.

The Warriors also hope to have agreed a revised contract with Issac Luke within the next week, to allow the Kiwis' hooker to focus on the upcoming campaign.

Issac Luke (left) is set to sign a new deal with the Warriors. Photo / Photosport
Issac Luke (left) is set to sign a new deal with the Warriors. Photo / Photosport

"I'm comfortable," said Kearney. "We are now talking to his management and [Issac] and I am pretty confident we will get that sorted."

The deal will be an upgrade on Luke's cut-price deal signed at the end of last season, while it will also remove the clause that mandated the Warriors to consider other offers for the 31-year-old.

Luke won't be part of the Warriors trial match against the Tigers in Whangārei on Saturday, as he continues his recovery from a shoulder operation, but otherwise, the team that runs out will be a strong indicator of who is in line to face the Bulldogs in the NRL season opener on March 16.

"[It will be] fairly close," said Kearney. "We want to try and mimic what we want to do in round one. The first run on 17 will be fairly close."