Warriors won’t replace Gavet
As the Warriors’ only major signing for 2019, prop Leeson Ah Mau has a significant role to play next season but his importance has only increased following developments this week.
James Gavet’s departure to the Knights, added to the retirement of club legend Simon Mannering last season, has left a void in the middle at the Warriors.
The club may eventually go into the market for a forward to replace Gavet, who made 19 appearances last season, but in Ah Mau it has a man tailor-made to carry the load.
After playing two games for the Warriors in 2009 followed by a twoyear stint at the Cowboys, Ah Mau has been a mainstay of the Dragons pack since 2012 and returns to Auckland on the back of one of the best seasons of his career.
Big and durable, the 28-year-old’s ability to churn through the metres post-contact stood out as he averaged more than 110 metres across 25 games.
They are also getting an experienced campaigner, with 179 NRL appearances behind him, which has only been enhanced by his time with the Kiwis this year.
After playing 16 tests for Samoa, the Auckland-born forward made his New Zealand debut in the Denver test before producing a powerful 25-minute cameo in last month’s upset over Australia.
Ah Mau backed that up with 125m off the bench in the first test against England although he could not produce the same impact last week as the Kiwis conceded the series at Anfield.
Ah Mau is excited about the prospect of taking his family back to New Zealand and returning to where it all began but his immediate focus is on finishing the season on the right note with the Kiwis.
The Kiwis are rebuilding under Michael Maguire and while they have played well in patches against England, it is the home team that has dominated the big moments to take an unassailable 2-0 series lead. The Warriors won’t be out shopping for a replacement for James Gavet.
The prop has been released from the final year of his contract and it is believed he had his first training session with the Newcastle Knights yesterday.
Gavet had progressed during his three years at the Warriors to become one of the club’s leading forwards.
But the club has decided to allow him to pick up a two-year deal with the Knights and Warriors general manager of football Brian Smith says they’re not initially going to look to replace him.
‘‘We feel like we’ve got enough flexibility, with a number of guys who can play loose forward, front row and even second row, especially Adam Blair,’’ Smith said.
‘‘We feel like we’ve got enough numbers, but we will measure that over the next period of pre-season training and if we feel like we need to address that, we’ll see what’s in the market.’’
‘‘[There has been] a lot of good stuff but at the same time it’s just little things like errors and
Forwards like Bunty Afoa, Agnatius Paasi and Isaiah Papali’i all had impressive campaigns in 2018, while Leeson Ah Mau joined the club from the Dragons and the club also has high expectations for Chris Satae next year.
‘‘We’d like to give those guys a crack and they’ve got an opportunity to play more in the first team in Chris’ case,’’ Smith said. ‘‘So we’re not concerned about that greatly, but it is something we’ll be careful about and monitor as we go.’’
Coming up to Christmas, most NRL teams should have their squads sorted, but there are a number of players still floating around and Smith says the coaching merry-goround currently happening, may put more players on the market. completions that has cost us,’’ Ah Mau said. ‘‘It’s been pretty disappointing the last two weeks but
‘‘We’re not the only club thinking there could be some serious fallout, depending on what happens with coaches in the next little while,’’ Smith said.
‘‘There could be a bit of a shakeup in some places and if that happens, it will leave us reasonably well placed if we felt like we wanted to make a move.’’
Meanwhile, Smith said the club is close to agreeing a new deal with centre Solomone Kata, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2019 season.
However, the situation with Shaun Johnson remains unresolved.
The halfback has been in the UK with the Kiwis since the Warriors announced they weren’t yet ready to offer Johnson a contract beyond next season and he was free to talk to other clubs.
Naturally, Johnson has been focused on playing his best for the Kiwis for the past month, but once this weekend’s final test against England is out of the way, discussions on his future will begin at Mt Smart Stadium.
we’re pretty positive this week and looking forward to the game.’’
Ah Mau is among a new batch of players introduced to the national side by Maguire and he has relished working under the new Wests Tigers coach.
Despite the lack of results, all of the squad members have spoken highly of the team culture Maguire has created.
And they are determined not to let the coach down by leaving the UK on the receiving end of a 3-0 whitewash.
‘‘Everyone just loves playing for him because he cares a lot for the players and you definitely want to do well,’’ Ah Mau said.
‘‘It’s a credit to ‘Madge’ [Maguire] and the coaching staff. The environment they’ve created, everyone’s welcome and we’re a really tight group.’’
He returned to Sydney and was in the frame for test selection after taking 35 Sheffield Shield wickets at 23 for NSW in 2016-17. But he struggled for opportunities last summer behind international spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe.
At former Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori’s recommendation, Auckland coach Mark O’Donnell snapped up Somerville for the Aces and he snared seven wickets in his first two shield matches last month. From 18 first-class matches Somerville has 62 wickets at 26.75.
Selector Gavin Larsen said Somerville had impressed the selectors and would complement legspinner Ish Sodhi and left-arm orthodox Ajaz Patel in the squad for the three-test series starting in Abu Dhabi on November 16. New Zealand are highly likely to pick two frontline spinners in their XI on the UAE dustbowls.
‘‘We’ve been keeping a close eye on Will and like the look of his allround game and skill-set,’’ Larsen said.
Meanwhile, Astle, 32, will return home to Christchurch to have his injured right knee looked at by a specialist. He picked up the injury during the recent New Zealand A one-day series and Larsen said he wouldn’t be able to cope with the workload expected in the ODI and test series against Pakistan.
‘‘Despite a period of rest, Todd’s knee has, unfortunately, not responded as well as we had hoped,’’ Larsen said.
‘‘The best course of action for Todd is to get home and get it looked at, with an eye to returning in the home summer.’’
Leeson Ah Mau will begin his three-year deal with the Warriors when he returns from Kiwis duty in England.
Will Somerville has leapt into Black Caps contention after only two matches for Auckland.
James Gavet has left the Warriors and joined the Newcastle Knights.