Warriors forward Albert Vete has expressed both sadness and excitement following confirmation that long-time friend and teammate Raymond Faitala-Mariner has departed the club immediately.
Faitala-Mariner said his farewells to teammates in Auckland on Tuesday night before heading over to Sydney in a swap deal which sees him arrive at the Bulldogs on a contract through until the end of 2019, and the Warriors pick up back-rower Shaun Lane for the rest of 2016.
Both Vete and Faitala-Mariner came through the New Zealand club's system at the same time, playing together for the Junior Warriors where they both scored in the 2013 Holden Cup Grand Final defeat to Penrith.
"Yeah, I'm feeling very sad," Vete told NRL.com when asked about Faitala-Mariner leaving.
"We started our NRL careers together and played under-20 level together, and he is just a guy that I was pretty close with."
While news of the deal only broke to the public late last week, Vete had been aware of Faitala-Mariner's desire to move to Sydney for a number of months, and initially tried to convince him to stick it out in Auckland for the rest of 2016.
"I had a few conversations with him about going and what it would be like," Vete said.
"Me and him are pretty close so we share a few things together, I knew it was on his mind.
"I said he should try and be patient and see how this year goes. But obviously the chance for him to go has come around a lot quicker than what he expected and what I expected as well.
"It's an exciting chance for him to go into a pretty well-established team in the Bulldogs.
"To go to a coach as well in Des Hasler – who has a history of getting the best out of players – I think Ray will thrive over there at the Bulldogs."
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said Faitala-Mariner had first let the club know of his request at the end of last season, but insisted it had little to do with playing opportunities.
"It's all happened pretty quickly, at the end of last year Raymond Faitala-Mariner expressed that he might want to leave for various reasons," McFadden said.
"At the time we wanted to work with him, but all along throughout the process we have been looking for a solution. It's finally come to a head in the last week and Shaun Lane has become available; it was I think beneficial to both clubs and both players.
"I think personal reasons (were behind the move), and I think that is for Raymond to discuss.
"From our perspective we were very committed to Raymond, he is a good footballer and a good young man and I think he will do very well."
After arriving in Auckland on the same flight as his new teammates following their golden-point victory over the Roosters on the Central Coast last Sunday, Lane has been named to start for the club in the Intrust Super Premiership this weekend.
The 21-year-old – who has 14 NRL Telstra Premiership appearances to his name so far – will live with veteran halfback Jeff Robson in Auckland for the time being.