The Warriors have emerged as front-runners to land wantaway Sea Eagle Addin Fonua-Blake as Manly offset his looming departure with the extension of hooker Manase Fainu until the end of 2023.
Fonua-Blake’s “desire to relocate out of Sydney with his young family” at the end of 2020 shocked the Sea Eagles when he put his request to coach Des Hasler and CEO Stephen Humphreys on Monday.
The club has since granted the Tongan international permission to negotiate with the three-Queensland based sides and the Warriors.
Manly are hopeful the situation will be resolved by the end of the regular season, with the Warriors understood to be preparing a lucrative three-year offer for Fonua-Blake.
On the same day Fonua-Blake’s release request was made public by the Sea Eagles, Fainu’s future was locked in long term with a two-year extension on top of his existing contract.
Fainu has been unavailable to play under the NRL’s no fault stand down rule and is still awaiting trial next July on multiple charges related to an alleged stabbing last October.
Fonua-Blake’s Tongan teammate would have been sidelined due to a shoulder injury in any that has required multiple operations, with his absence from Manly’s line-up in 2020 a key factor in the slide out of finals contention.
Fainu’s retention is a significant show of faith from Manly hierarchy, but comes in the face of interest of rivals led by ex-Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett at Canterbury.
As for Fonua-Blake’s release, Manly said via its Wednesday morning statement that it is contingent on “the Sea Eagles receiving fair and reasonable compensation.”
Manly are open to several scenarios including; a player swap, be it like-for-like or otherwise, a replacement being sourced from a third club or financial compensation being paid.
The Sea Eagles have told all parties involved they will not be contributing to Fonua-Blake’s salary as soon as he leaves the club.
He is believed to be earning around $600,000 this year at the Sea Eagles and is regarded as one of the best props in the game.
The Warriors have the required salary cap room to accommodate him having already chased marquee forwards Jack de Belin and Tevita Pangai jnr this year.
“He’s in the top echelon of front rowers and I think he’s a really smart, aggressive player that would add to any team who could get his hands on him,” interim Warriors coach, and soon to be North Queensland mentor Todd Payten said on Wednesday.
“I think he’d go good in anyone’s team. We (the Cowboys) don’t have any money and we don’t have any spots.”
A return to the Central Coast or shifting to Redcliffe shape as the Australian-based options for the Warriors next season, with the Kiwi side expecting to operate out of Auckland for at least the pre-season in a worst-case scenario..
Fonua-Blake has extended family in both Queensland and New Zealand, with the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on his four young children understood to have played a part in his push to leave Sydney.
While the likes of Brisbane and the Gold Coast would also have the ability to fit Fonua-Blake into their roster, sources at the Broncos have told NRL.com they are “no chance” of signing him or any other elite middle forward next year.
The club already has several well-paid players already on their books in that position including Matt Lodge, Payne Haas, Pat Carrigan, Thomas Flegler, Joe Ofahengaue and Pangai jnr.
Ofahengaue has been linked to a Dragons move while Pangai jnr is on a strict set of contractual conditions for the next 12 months after initially being served a breach notice by the club.
Broncos board member Darren Lockyer, also on the club’s recruitment and retention committee, recently told NRL.com the club was in a holding pattern with recruitment until a new coach is appointed.
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