NRL: Warriors coach Stephen Kearney endorses young duo as halfback candidates

The NZ Warriors won't be hitting the market for a new halfback in 2019, with coach Stephen Kearney confident one of the club's young guns can rise to the occasion and partner Blake Green .

The NRL club has plenty of money to spend, with long-serving number seven Shaun Johnson released from his contract a year early, after it was reported he wasn't wanted beyond 2019.

He has since moved across the Tasman, signing a three-year deal with the Cronulla Sharks.

There has been plenty of speculation over how the Warriors would replace him, with Eels duo Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown both linked to the club, but Kearney sees two players already at his disposal that could slot in nicely.

Kearney believes Adam Keighran or Chanel Harris-Tavita are the leading candidates to wear the seven jersey, when the Warriors open their season against the Canterbury Bulldogs on March 16 in Auckland.

"I think both Adam and Chanel have put their hands up over the summer," he said. "We've been switching them out each week, so everyone gets a run, but all of them are tracking along nicely.  

"In my eyes, at this stage, we're fine with who we have here.

"I couldn't say [who will start] at this stage, but all I know is that all of them are working hard with Stacey [Jones] with kicking and Todd [Payton] on attack."

New recruit Adam Keighran
New recruit Adam Keighran Photo credit: Photosport
Chanel Harris-Tavita.
Chanel Harris-Tavita. Photo credit: Photosport

Keighran arrived at the Warriors in October, signed from the Penrith Panthers on a two-year deal.

He's yet to play first grade, but he's proven himself in reserve grade, after being named - at centre - in the ISP Team of the Year.

But his natural position is in the halves, having slotted in at five-eighth to help the Panthers reserves win the minor premiership.

The 21-year-old is a proven left-footed goalkicker and finished last season as the competition's top scorer, with 202 points (10 tries, 81 goals) in 23 games.

Harris-Tavita has climbed through the Warriors ranks. He was the club's NYC Rookie of the Year in 2016 and then NYC Player of the Year in 2017, along with NZRL Junior Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, Kearney confirmed that hookier Issac Luke was tracking ahead of schedule, as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

The 31-year-old, who signed new one-year deal for next season, went under the knife for a full shoulder reconstruction, after injuries during the 2018 season.

"It will be touch and go," said Kearney. "He's tracking along well.

"He's further ahead than what we anticipated, but lots will depend when he starts contract.

"We don't expect him to start this till the end of the month, but it will be an important period for him."

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