The Warriors could lose their most experienced player within the next week, with Super League clubs and other NRL teams expressing interest in snaring the long-time servant, despite two years still remaining on his contract. Michael Burgess reports.
Warriors wing David Fusitu'a faces a critical decision on his future over the coming week.
Fusitu'a, who is the longest serving player at the Warriors, has three choices.
He could stay with the Auckland club, take up a new deal with another Australian club, or continue his career over in England.
The Tongan international has two years remaining on his Warriors deal, but was given permission to test the market a few weeks ago.
The Herald understands that the 27-year-old has received two offers from Super League clubs, while there are two NRL teams that have also expressed interest in his services.
Fusitu'a, who has scored 61 tries in 108 games for the Warriors, is expected to make a call over the next seven days.
It's still possible that he could stay at the Warriors, and coach Nathan Brown remains an admirer, if he can get back to his best form, but it seems more likely that he will opt for fresh pastures.
Fusitu'a was once regarded as one of the top wingers in the NRL and between 2016 and 2018 was probably the best finisher in the game, with his amazing aerobatic ability, able to leap from metres before the line and soar into the corner.
A product of Kelston Boys High School and Marist Saints, Fusitu'a made his NRL debut in 2014, managing seven tries in 12 appearances.
Injuries ruined his 2015 campaign, but he notched 11 tries from 18 games in 2016, including four in one match against the Knights, and averaged 125 running metres a week.
Another solid season in 2017 (12 tries in 24 games) culminated in his Rugby League World Cup heroics, one of the standouts for Mate Ma'a Tonga after his late switch from the Kiwis.
That tournament was the precursor to a stunning 2018 season, where he topped the NRL charts with 23 tries, including two hat tricks, along with a career-best 19 line breaks.
But Fusitu'a has fallen off the radar in the last two years, with only 12 appearances. In 2020 he missed a few games through injury before electing to go home after round 11, along with three other players whose families were unable to relocate to Australia.
This year he started the first five rounds but wasn't seen again, partly due to a complex hamstring injury. However Fusit'ua made two appearances for Redcliffe last month and came through unscathed.
Fusitu'a is one of the highest paid wingers in the NRL, after signing a five-year deal in 2018 at the peak of his powers.
It's unlikely that any new club would be able to match that deal, though it's believed that the Warriors will pick up a portion of his ongoing salary, like the Broncos agreed to do when Matt Lodge moved to the Warriors earlier this year, or the Bulldogs did with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's exit.
If Fusitu'a does leave, it will mark the end of the era.
Fusitu'a is one of the last players of the Warriors' golden Holden Cup era, where the club featured in four Under-20's grand finals across five years between 2010 and 2014 (winning three) and had a production line of home grown talent coming through.
Teammates in the 2013 NYC final who went on to the NRL included Tui Lolohea, Mason Lino, Albert Vete, Siliva Havili, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Sam Lisone and Solomone Kata.
Graduates from the 2014 Holden Cup-winning team included Toaf Sipley, Nate Roache, Ken Maumalo, Ata Hingano, Ofahiki Ogden and Jazz Tevaga.
Tevaga, who made his first grade debut in 2016 before becoming a regular in 2018, is the only other player from that cohort still at the club.