War­riors won’t re­place Gavet

The Dominion Post - - Sport - David Long

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.’’

PHO­TO­SPORT

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.

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