Next week could be pivotal to the future shape of the New Zealand Warriors' roster, with the club set to commence negotiations with three key targets.
From November 1 all NRL clubs can submit offers for off contract players at rival teams.
The Herald understands that Roosters' centre Joseph Manu, Eels' forward Marata Niukore and Sharks' half Luke Metcalf are among the highest priorities on the Warriors' list.
The trio are all contracted until the end of next season, though past precedents have shown that early releases are possible.
Manu would be the biggest coup – rated as one of the best backs in the NRL – but also the hardest to get.
The 25-year-old is a world class centre, which the Warriors desperately need, though the five-test Kiwi is also seen as an option at fullback or in the halves, which ties in with his personal development ambitions.
Manu won't be short of potential suitors, though the Roosters remain favourites for his signature. The Tokoroa product has been with the Bondi club since 2014, with 40 tries in 114 NRL games and two grand final rings (2018 and 2019).
But if he decides on a change, the Warriors should be near the front of the queue.
There is the lure of coming home and financially their offer is likely to trump most others, but they will need to convince Manu they can provide a winning environment.
The Warriors are more confident about Metcalf. Though the Sharks want to keep the 22-year-old, he is believed to be leaning towards a move to the Warriors, given the greater NRL opportunities.
There is a log jam in his position at Cronulla, whereas Metcalf is seen as the explosive, running five-eighth that will eventually take over from Shaun Johnson.
His speed is a key weapon under the new rules and he also offers positional versatility. It's expected he will sign a deal for 2023 and 2024, with an early release a possibility.
Niukore was the one that got away. An Aorere College product, Niukore played for the Junior Warriors in 2015, signing a two-year contract later that season. He was on the fringes of the first-grade squad, before the Eels swooped in 2017.
The 25-year-old has since evolved into a dynamic edge forward, capable of filling in at centre. He's athletic, big and fast, and an aggressive, strong defender. Parramatta want to retain him, but have a number of other players off contract, which will boost the Warriors' chances.
Aside from that key trio, the Warriors' immediate recruitment focus is an experienced outside back. It's an area where they are light, given the departures of David Fusitu'a and Peta Hiku.
The alternative would be finding another back rower for 2022, which would allow Euan Aitken, increasingly seen as a second-row option, to return to the centres.
The club did pursue Paul Momirovski with a strong offer, but the former Penrith player chose to return to the Roosters.
The Warriors currently have four roster spots available for next season.
One of those could be taken by prop Jackson Frei, who has been given a train and trial contract until March. Fellow youngster Tom Ale is expected to be out until late next year, as he recovers from an ACL injury, but he will be retained.
The Warriors still seem vulnerable at hooker – if injuries strike – but are not actively pursuing another dummy half option, with youngster Taniela Otukolo and utilities Jazz Tevaga and Kodi Nikorima seen as cover for Wayde Egan.
Kiwi Brandon Smith would be a dream signing for many fans, but the Roosters, Gold Coast or Redcliffe Dolphins are favoured to land the 25-year-old, if he decides to leave the Melbourne Storm at the end of next season.