The Warriors have missed out on their top transfer target, with Kiwis centre Joseph Manu electing to stay put at the Sydney Roosters.
The Auckland club wanted Manu as their marquee man for 2023 – on terms of around $1 million a season – and the 25-year-old would have been their biggest signing since they snared Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from the Bondi club in 2015.
But it was always going to be difficult to persuade Manu to leave the Roosters, given his long association with the club and the success he has enjoyed there, winning consecutive NRL premierships in 2018 and 2019.
"I assume he is staying at the Roosters," Warriors chief executive Cameron George told the Herald. "Without a doubt he and his family were extremely appreciative of our interest and it is always attractive to look at an option to come home.
"We had a good general chat about the whole thing but his heart certainly still lies with the Roosters; they have been great for him and his family and I understand the alliance with that. It was all done extremely respectfully."
Manu was off contract at the end of the 2022 season but is expected to sign an extension soon.
He would have been an ideal signing for the Warriors. Manu is one of the best centres in the sport but can also play fullback or five-eighth, having shown his versatility at the Roosters over the last two years.
But similar to the pursuit of Melbourne Storm's Jahrome Hughes last year, it was always going to be a long shot to prise Manu from his long-term base.
George said the club are in "no hurry" as they consider other options. Prop Matt Lodge has a contract option in his favour for the 2023 season, when the Warriors are expected to be based back in Auckland.
If the Queenslander chooses not to take up that option, the club will need money up their sleeve for another middle, with part of Lodge's salary being covered by the Brisbane Broncos.
George also confirmed that the Warriors aren't pursuing Kiwis' hooker Brandon Smith.
The off-contract Storm No 9 has attracted plenty of interest, with the Gold Coast Titans, Redcliffe Dolphins and North Queensland Cowboys among the clubs making big offers, but the Warriors wouldn't be part of that pursuit.
An outside back remains a priority signing for 2022 and beyond, following the departures of Peta Hiku and David Fusitu'a.
"We have got some young backs, but they need a bit more footy," said George. "Centre would be something we would be looking for, if we found the right one - some experience in that space - so we can build a little bit of depth."
Aside from Manu, the other principal targets in this window were Marata Niukore (Parramatta Eels) and Luke Metcalf (Cronulla Sharks).
The 25-year-old Niukore was confirmed on a four-year deal on Thursday and the club remain hopeful that the signing of young Sharks halfback Metcalf will be completed this weekend. It's understood the Warriors agreed terms several days ago, but the paperwork has yet to be finalised.
Cronulla are believed to be fighting hard to convince the 22-year-old to stay, even though he remains some way down the pecking order among the playmakers at the club.
Overall, George was confident about the shape of the roster for next season and beyond.
"We have a few balls in the air – we are looking at different options," said George. "It's fair to say the jigsaw puzzle still has a few pieces and we need to understand where they are going to fit."