With NZ Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak seemingly secured, NZ Warriors have reportedly turned attention to two more big-name signings to bolster their ailing roster.
While no official announcement has come from the Auckland NRL club, the Bulldogs are expected to release the fullback/wing utility imminently, with the transfer deadline looming on August 1.
Player movement rumours have reached fever pitch across the Tasman, with Australian media sources reporting Brisbane Broncos prop Matt Lodge and former St George half Gareth Widdop are next on the Warriors shopping list, as their roster reels under injuries and departures.
As first-year coach Nathan Brown rebuilds his squad, the club has already lost the services of backs Peta Hiku (to North Queensland) and Ken Maumalo (Wests Tigers) in recent weeks.
With Chanel Harris-Tavita sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle (chest/shoulder) and Kodi Nikorima reportedly not keen to base himself in Auckland next season, Brown desperately needs half reinforcements, with Widdop a logical recruit.
The English international left the NRL in 2019 to join Warrington in the Super League, but the Dragons retained his option over the remaining two years of his contract with them. NRL.com reports they are prepared to waive those rights, with Canberra also looming as a possible destination.
His availability may depend on how quickly Warrington can fill his void and that replacement may already be on the way, with former Raiders half George Williams already heading home to England.
Lodge was on the Warriors radar last year, before he re-signed with the Broncos - and Brown inked Addin Fonua-Blake - but with Brisbane coach Kevin Walters also shaking up his roster, the controversial prop seems back on the market.
Warriors recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan is Lodge's father-in-law and Brown is believed to have chased Lodge during his previous coaching stint at Newcastle Knights.
But Lodge would bring some considerable baggage. In 2015, he was arrested and charged with assault, after threatening two German tourists in New York, chasing them into an building and attacking a man trying to help them.
The charge was reduced to reckless assault as part of a plea deal, the victims filed a US$2 million civil lawsuit, and Lodge was ordered to complete community service, and alcohol and anger treatment.
Meanwhile, Kiwis star and former Warrior Shaun Johnson is reportedly headed to Canterbury Bulldogs, as incoming Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon offloads players from his existing roster.
Join us at 5pm Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Newcastle Knights NRL clash