Warriors in talks with Watene-Zeleziak as replacement for Maumalo

The Warriors are looking to offer Dallin Watene-Zelezniak a contract that extends beyond his current deal at the Bulldogs. MARK METCALFE/GETTY IMAGES

The Warriors are in talks to sign Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak as a replacement for Ken Maumalo.

Stuff understands the club have been in negotiations this week with Watene-Zelezniak and his agent Tyran Smith, with his move to the Warriors linked to Maumalo’s switch to Wests Tigers, which was confirmed on Saturday.

Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who also coaches the Kiwis, was looking at picking up Watene-Zelezniak from the Bulldogs and talks about a mid-season switch for the fullback/winger had been going on for some time.

Those negotiations had come down to how much of Watene-Zelezniak’s $850,000 a season salary the Bulldogs would continue to pick up.

However, once it became apparent that Maumalo had fallen out of favour at the Warriors, Maguire switched his attentions to Maumalo and that opened up the opportunity for the Warriors to swoop in and pick up Watene-Zelezniak.

While Maguire has coached Watene-Zelezniak and Maumalo at International level, his preference was to have Maumalo, while the Warriors believe getting Watene-Zelezniak for Maumalo is an upgrade.

The Warriors would be looking for the Bulldogs to contribute around $400,000 of Watene-Zelezniak’s contract for next season, and a similar ratio of his contract paid for the remainder of this season.

Watene-Zelezniak has a deal at the Bulldogs through to the end of next season, but the Warriors are looking to offer him a contract beyond 2022.

The club has plenty of salary cap space available, with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck departing, while the Warriors’ recruitment and retention manager Peter O’Sullivan has been carefully managing how much they pay players who have been re-signed.

Some players, who had contracts running out at the end of the season, were expecting nice pay rises for 2022 and beyond.

However, O’Sullivan has kept a tight hold on the purse strings, so that he had salary cap space available to land a big name player and Watene-Zelezniak certainly falls into that category.

Not only is the 25-year-old, Hamilton born Watene-Zelezniak an outstanding player, he’s also a person with exceptional character and potentially could become Warriors captain if Tohu Harris declines to have this job next season.

Watene-Zelezniak is the perfect pick up for the Warriors, because he fits into the way the club’s coach Nathan Brown wants the team to play.

Brown wants speed, rather than strength from his wingers. That’s why Maumalo was asked to improve his fitness during his last few weeks at the Warriors.

Having Watene-Zelezniak would not only pay off for the Warriors long-term, but for the rest of this season and having Reece Walsh, Tuivasa-Sheck and Watene-Zelezniak at the back, should strike fear into the hearts of every other team in the NRL.



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