Manly sign Mateo & Mason, lose Watmough
The wheeling and dealing at Manly is in full effect, with the club announcing the long-awaited release of star forward Anthony Watmough, offset by the signings of forwards Feleti Mateo, Willie Mason and Siosaia Vave for the 2015 season.
The Sea Eagles also announced on Tuesday the poaching of Souths chief financial officer Joe Kelly to replace outgoing general manager David Perry, as well as the retention of skipper Jamie Lyon, who will see out his career in the maroon and white having extended his current deal until the end of 2016.
The much-anticipated departure of Watmough comes despite speculation that Manly's new ownership structure, brought about by the Penn family's takeover of the club last week, might have enticed the disgruntled NSW and Kangaroos back-rower to see out the final year of his deal on the Northern Beaches.
But it is understood Watmough's negotiations with the Eels had progressed too far by the time the club's restructuring took place for the 31-year-old to be swayed. He will instead head west immediately on an expected three-year deal in time for the start of Parramatta's pre-season, which kicks off with a trip to the US later this week.
The blow of Watmough's departure is softened somewhat by the recruitment of representative forwards trio; Mateo, Mason and Vave, bolstering a pack that has now lost Watmough, ball-playing lock Glenn Stewart (Rabbitohs) and props Jason King (retired) and Brent Kite (Penrith) in the past two years.
Mateo, who was granted a release from the final two years of his contract with the Warriors offers a similar ball-playing ability to Stewart and will be at Manly until the end of 2016, while former Australian and Blues enforcer Mason joins the Sea Eagles on a one year deal along with Tongan and Sharks front-rower Vave to bolster the club's front row stocks.
Coach Geoff Toovey admitted his disappointment at losing Watmough, who is the third most capped Sea Eagle of all time with 278 games for the club, though the move does free up much needed salary cap space for the retention of high-profile halves combo Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, both of whom are off contract at the end of next season.
“Anthony is a local junior, a two-time premiership winner and a life-member of the club. I’m disappointed to lose a quality player such as Anthony Watmough,” Toovey said.
“He has been an integral part of the success here at Manly for many years.
“We wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his service to the Sea Eagles.”
Manly chairman Scott Penn hailed the instalment of Kelly in the Sea Eagles new restructured front of house, after previously spending eight year in charge of premiership winners Souths and prior to that enjoying a role with English Premier League giants Chelsea.
“We are absolutely delighted to have secured Joe as CEO of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles," said Penn.
"Joe is clearly one of the most talented executives in the game and has been instrumental in the turnaround at the Rabbitohs.”
“We are committed to improving our off field performance and making the Sea Eagles a truly world class organisation. Joe’s appointment is a crucial first step in that transition. We will create the club our members and sponsors deserve.”