Kodi Nikorima's time at the Warriors is all but over.
The Warriors are likely to grant Nikorima an early release from his contract, as he looks to make an immediate switch to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Although the final paperwork has yet to be completed, it's understood Nikorima has completed formalities at the Sydney club – including a medical – and the Warriors will allow an early exit.
Nikorima's management recently approached the Warriors to ask for permission to talk to other clubs, with a view to a mid-season transfer.
The 15-test Kiwi has been on the fringes this year. He has made two starts in the halves but has otherwise been a bench utility, with Chanel Harris-Tavita preferred alongside Shaun Johnson and new recruit Daejarn Asi making a strong instant impression last Saturday against the Raiders.
Although Harris-Tavita will be sidelined for the next few weeks, the Warriors are confident they have halves cover, with Asi and also Reece Walsh if necessary.
But the versatile Nikorima will still leave a vacuum, as the most experienced dummy half behind Wayde Egan. Jazz Tevaga is seen as an emergency option while 19-year-old Taniela Otukolo is still learning his trade and wouldn't be a full time alternative should Egan get injured.
So, the Warriors will immediately begin to assess back-up hooker options on the market. They want the right man – and won't rush into a move – but would like to find someone within the month.
The Warriors were reluctant to stand in Nikorima's way, once he had ambitions elsewhere. The 28-year-old was never an option beyond this season, as he wants to remain across the Tasman with his Australian partner and their children.
Nikorima has also been inconsistent, with his output over the last 18 months not matching his undoubted natural ability. His departure will also free up space in the salary cap.
Nikorima wasn't included in the extended squad to face the Sharks this Sunday, though the club said that was related to his recovery from recent Covid infection.
Nikorima got sick the day before the Melbourne game and had prolonged and heavy symptoms, only returning to training this Tuesday.
"I probably can't shed too much light on it at this stage," said coach Nathan Brown when asked about Nikorima's future on Wednesday.
"He's off contract next year and his wife [doesn't] want to move back to New Zealand - that has been known for a fair while.
"Obviously we've had a few blokes ahead of Kodi [this year]. He has played a little bit of six and a little bit of nine but his preferred spot is the halves. So I know he is certainly having a look around at the moment. I couldn't sit here and guarantee that he'll be with us next week or he won't be with us next week. But I'm sure there's things happening behind the scenes, but I am more focussed on the Sharks to be honest."
Nikorima arrived at the Warriors in May 2019, after Shaun Johnson's unexpected departure six months earlier. He has played 59 games for the Auckland club, with 11 tries, 39 try assists and 17 line breaks.
Nikorima has had some memorable moments, with the 2020 season probably his best campaign, but not the overall impact expected, especially given his experience and pedigree.
The move means Nikorima could be in line to make his Rabbitohs debut next week against the Warriors, unless there is a clause in the release agreement.
Brown also confirmed that captain Tohu Harris remains on track for an imminent return, possibly as earlier as next week.
"The plan was always around round nine or 10 which is still the plan," said Brown.
Harris met with a specialist on Wednesday for the "150 per cent tick off" and if he comes through training in the next seven days looks likely to take the field during Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium.
"If he's feeling ready to go, he'll play," said Brown. "Obviously the players have to play a part in that, coming off that type of injury."