NRL 2021: Rising star Paul Turner rejects pay rise to leave NZ Warriors

NZ Warriors head coach Nathan Brown has revealed how far the club went to keep precocious young talent Paul Turner with the Auckland NRL side.

This week, the 20-year-old was granted an early release from his contract, which expires at the end of this season, to sign on with a rival team - reportedly, Gold Coast Titans.

Brown says the Warriors tabled an offer that he believed was more generous financially than their adversaries', but clearly Turner - whose season-ending injury means he's already played his last game for the club - saw more opportunity elsewhere.

"We would've liked him to stay," Brown says. "Truth be told, I think our offer may have been a touch better than the other club, but he probably chose to take a different career path and you've got to respect that.

"Sometimes players feel they've got a better opportunity elsewhere and I know Paul's brother lives up on the Gold Coast as well.

"He's certainly a loss. He's a player who can play multiple positions and he nailed that 17, until he hurt his shoulder.

"He was doing a great job."

Brown admits seeing a player of Turner's talent and versatility depart is difficult to swallow, particularly as the Warriors had developed him through their ranks.

"When you've got a local player that's come through the club for a number of years and you've got plans for him, it's disappointing," he adds.

"When you lose talented blokes who are very popular with their teammates, you're certainly never happy about it, but it's just part of the job, and you've just got to get on with it and look for a replacement."

As it stands, Brown may suddenly have a welcome selection headache on his hands for this weekend's rematch against Manly Sea Eagles.

Chanel Harris-Tavita and Euan Aitken have both full participants at training, and are named to an extended bench for Sunday's game, as they eye returns from long injury absences.

Harris-Tavita has missed six weeks of action, after surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, while Aitken hasn't played for his new club since the opening round win over the Titans, due to an ankle injury.

While Warriors rookie star Reece Walsh impressed in his fill-in start in the halves during the 24-20 win over North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday, Brown suggests Harris-Tavita will slot right back into his regular No.6 jersey, when he's deemed fit to return to play.

"He was our starting halfback at the start of the year, so I expect him to be the starting halfback now, if he's fit and able," says Brown.

"Obviously Reece started young - he's only 18 - so managing him as a young bloke is going to be important throughout the year as well."

Brown says they've experimented with various combinations at training, meaning Walsh could still feature alongside Harris-Tavita in a hypothetical starting side.

"Reece can play six and one, so we're training in different spots, with Chanel at seven and six, as well. There are things we can look at there.

NRL 2021: Rising star Paul Turner rejects pay rise to leave NZ Warriors
Photo credit: Getty/Newshub.

"The first thing was them getting through training good. We'll have a staff meeting tomorrow and make a decision before our main training run on Friday."

Meanwhile, Brown dismissed speculation that wing David Fusitu'a has been sidelined due to mental health issues.

Reports from across the Tasman claim the Tonga wing has been struggling with personal issues that he's currently working through with the club and may be out of action for the foreseeable future.

Brown says Fuistu'a is simply dealing with a more severe hamstring issue than initially diagnosed, shaking his head at the conjecture over his mental wellbeing.

"I think there are certain areas in life where people shouldn't go," Brown says. "If you've got your moral compass pointed in the right direction anyway.

"His hamstring is just a bit more complex than what we first thought. We thought he was going to be right to play last week and he got through the full week's training, but he pulled up tight in a run on Sunday, about an hour before the game.

"He's just going to be a longer term proposition than what we first thought."

Join us at 4pm Sunday for live updates of the Warriors v Manly Sea Eagles NRL clash