The Brisbane Broncos are making plans to bring Warriors phenom Reece Walsh back to the club – and they are likely not the only team eying a move.
The Courier Mail reports that Brisbane's recruiters have discussed a poaching bid for Walsh, who left the club to sign a $1.2 million three-year deal with the Warriors before he played a NRL game.
The 19-year-old has shone for the Warriors in his rookie season, and was set to debut for Queensland in State of Origin before getting injured. Now, he's in line to face his former team on Sunday when the Warriors visit Suncorp Stadium.
If Brisbane have their way, it would be the first of many games at Suncorp for Walsh, and the structure of his contract with the Warriors may help their cause.
Walsh's three-year deal, starting next year, included a player option for the final year, meaning the Warriors only have two more years of team control – 2022 and 2023. So, if Walsh gets a big offer, he could depart the Warriors at the end of the 2023 season, with the Broncos able to bid for his services from November 1 next year.
Other teams would also be able to lodge a bid, and with Walsh one of the most exciting talents in the sport and only 21 at the conclusion of 2023, a bidding war would likely ensue if he turned down his player option.
"We never wanted to lose Reece," said Broncos coach Kevin Walters.
"We are a Queensland-based club and I had high hopes for Reece to play for the Broncos.
"I wished Reece all the best at the Warriors. He has been playing some good footy for them, which I expected him to do, but he's only young.
"I'm not sure what will happen down the track, but Reece is always welcome back here, certainly."
The Courier Mail claim the Warriors are aware of Brisbane's plans, but Warriors assistant Craig Hodges is hopeful the club can build an environment that is too alluring for Walsh to depart.
"The Broncos would be mad not to have a crack at Reece and there will always be the family connection to come home to Brisbane," he said.
"But if he feels valued with what we are doing, there might be no reason for Reece to leave.
"It might not be as simple as Brisbane wanting him back, so they'll get him back.
"I guess a bit of that will come down to the type of club we are building at the Warriors and whether he feels he wants to be a part of that.
"If we travel on the path I'm expecting us to go on as a club in the coming years, it might be too exciting for Reece to leave."
Walsh's immediate future will likely be based in Australia anyway, with the fullback yet to play a game in New Zealand, and unable to travel to the country until the transtasman border is open again – a situation that has led the Warriors to prepare to start their 2022 campaign in Australia.