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Warriors land big Shark for 2021 but still hunting another prop

Rising Sharks prop Toby Rudolf will join the Warriors in 2021 but they are still in the immediate market for a big man after Cronulla knocked back enquiries about an early release.

NRL.com understands Rudolf has agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the Warriors from next season, though neither club has made an official comment on his future.

Rudolf impressed in two games for the Sharks after a long-awaited round one debut at the age of 24.

Given Cronulla's own slim front-row stocks, the suggestion of Rudolf easing the Warriors' crippling injury toll has been shot down.

And while Tongan powerhouse Ben Murdoch-Masila - who has signed with the Warriors for 2021 - has also expressed his willingness to join the club early from Super League's Warrington Wolves, a release is understood to be unlikely given hopes of the English competition returning in August.

New recruit Jack Murchie at Warriors training on Friday with Ken Maumalo.
New recruit Jack Murchie at Warriors training on Friday with Ken Maumalo. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

As a result, Stephen Kearney's recruitment staff are still scouring the market for a front-rower with middle men Leeson Ah Mau (pectoral), Jackson Frei and Bunty Afoa (knee injuries) sidelined for the season and Jazz Tevaga (knee) also out long term.

Former Raider Jack Murchie has already linked with the Warriors this week after taking just 24 hours to nut out a deal for the rest of 2020.

"We're still looking to add to that list," Kearney said on Friday.

"We are on the lookout for a middle forward and [CEO] Cameron [George] is working with the NRL about a loan process, potentially loaning a player from another club for a period.

"One, so that he can get some footy under his belt and two, he could help our footy club out.

"We hope to hear from the NRL in the coming days to see if that is a possibility."

Wests Tigers prop Matt Eisenhuth is another linked to a potential loan arrangement, while Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he would be willing to consider offering a younger forward like Eddie Blacker up for a brief move if it suited both clubs and the player.

Coincidentally, the Warriors have drawn the Dragons next Saturday at their makeshift base of Central Coast Stadium.

Kearney said the Warriors were awaiting a final call on potential loan deals at next Thursday's ARL Commission meeting before officially approaching clubs and players.

Retired veterans such as Paul Gallen and Sam Thaiday may yet come into consideration if the NRL knocks back the Warriors' loan requests.

While the club has 26 fit players in camp in Terrigal on the Central Coast, several of those are young development players that Kearney is loath to blood at the top level.

Former first grader-turned Sky Sports reporter Blake Ayshford meanwhile has been jumping onto the wing at training to help out.

Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leads the team through its paces at training in Gosford.
Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leads the team through its paces at training in Gosford. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

"We've got some development boys in there, and at this stage I don't want to be putting those guys into an NRL contest," Kearney said.

"One, [recent rugby union convert] Rocco Berry, he turned 19 last week and he's played two games of rugby league. So it's just not safe practice to be throwing someone like that in there.

"We're able to get by [in training] with 13 v 13 at the moment. I've got no doubt they could handle a game in the NRL ... but I think it's a big ask to put [Berry] in there at this stage.

"If I had to put him in there for half an hour of an NRL match, he may be able cope with it I'm sure. But I certainly wouldn't want to be taking that risk."