Star Warrior close to new deal
While their chances of retaining five-eighth Kieran Foran beyond this year appear to get slimmer by the day, the Warriors are on the verge of securing their other superstar playmaker in Shaun Johnson.
Ahead of the annual Anzac Day clash against the Melbourne Storm in Round 8, speculation about where Foran will be playing next year has dominated the headlines, but Johnson this week suggested his own future would be in Auckland, with a new deal imminent.
"I have obviously been in talks with the club for a while now and we are getting close; it's hopefully going to be all sorted very soon," Johnson said on Friday.
"I do [want to stay at the Warriors], walking away, a lot of people have said it's probably what I should do, [and] I guess take my game to a new level at another club and all that.
"But it doesn't make sense for me to do that for myself, I would not be satisfied with that I don't think.
"The thrill of knowing what this club can do to rugby league in New Zealand is still something I really want to be a part of.
"I have said that all along, I have said that to Jim (Warriors managing director Jim Doyle), I have said that to 'Mooks' (coach Stephen Kearney) and the coaching staff here.
"I am sure we will have it all sorted soon enough."
While Johnson was happy to talk about the situation involving his playing future, the Warriors were quick to shut down any talk about Foran.
Kearney advised media that he wouldn't be addressing any transfer speculation in his weekly press conference, and insisted it hadn't served as a distraction through the week.
Meanwhile the Warriors could have a big inclusion in their final squad for Tuesday's match at AAMI Park, with Kiwis front-rower Ben Matulino shaping as a good chance to play his first NRL Telstra Premiership match of 2017.
Matulino had off-season knee surgery which was complicated by an infection, further delaying his return to the field, but has been taking part in full contact sessions with the club for the past fortnight.
Veteran back-rower Ryan Hoffman said his return would provide a boost ahead of meeting the second-placed Storm.
"It will be great, Benny has been champing at the bit to get out there for a while," Hoffman said.
"To be able to have a boost like Benny to come back into the team is going to be a real benefit for us."