Warriors farewell 15 players after return to New Zealand

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The New Zealand Warriors have confirmed a massive roster cleanup.

According to rugby union website Zero Tackle, 15 players have now been axed by the club, including 10 who started the season in the club’s 30-man senior squad, following a nightmare three seasons stranded in Australia.

A number of transfers have taken place, including the departure of some of the club’s biggest names, Matt Lodge for the Roosters, Codini Colima for South Sydney before being linked with the Dolphins, and Ash Taylor’s retirement after continuing his retirement at 27 Hip injury at age.

Others have also been announced, such as Euan Aitken leaving the Dolphins, Jesse Arthars ending his one-year loan period and returning to the Broncos, Chanel Harris-Tavita leaving the NFL indefinitely for travel, Eliesa Katoa joining the Storm and star guard Reese Walsh switching to the Broncos team.

Aitken also received the Warriors’ Simon Mannering Medal for Player of the Year, while Walsh was named a People’s Choice Award winner.

But many other players were also moved, including Jack Murch, Pride Petterson-Robati, Dunamis Lui and development player Lleyton Finau.

Dunamis Lui was one of many to quit the club.photo/photo campaign  Warriors farewell 15 players after return to New Zealand
Dunamis Lui was one of many to quit the club.photo/photo campaign

The other players who have left the club are Daejarn Asi, Jackson Frei and Junior Ratuva.

The Warriors do have some new players joining the club, including Eels forward Marata Niukore, Sharks half Luke Metcalfe, Seahawks utility Dylan Walker, Cavaliers second paddler Mitch Barnett , Raiders linebacker Chanz Nicole Klockstad and Broncos star Te Maire Martin.

The Warriors will also have a new coach, with Panthers assistant Andrew Webster signing a three-year deal starting next season.

Webster previously worked with the Warriors, serving as an assistant coach for two seasons in 2015.

But since then, the Warriors have had four coaches — Stephen Kearney, Todd Petten, Nathan Brown and now Stacey Jones, who served as interim coach for 10 games in 2022 .

The Warriors have had a high rate of player attrition in recent seasons, including former captain Roger Tuvasa-Sheikh to rugby union, but the recent churn is not unexpected.

The Warriors have been stationed in Redcliffe for most of the past three seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the club has been an underachiever, having reached the final only once since the team reached the final for the second time in 2011.

The Warriors finished 15th in 2022, and while that’s largely to blame for spending most of another season away from home, New Zealand won at home against the Tigers, but in eight games Lost seven games and ended the season in a whimper.

Reese Walsh in the Warriors' final game against the Titans.photo/photo campaign  Warriors farewell 15 players after return to New Zealand
Reese Walsh in the Warriors’ final game against the Titans.photo/photo campaign

Walsh’s departure was the biggest news of the season, as the Queensland rookie shocked the league by stepping back on comments he wanted to stay at the club and be released to return closer to his family.

After his final game, however, Walsh said a heartfelt goodbye to the club that made his debut.

“I was very emotional when I ran out and shook hands with the boys (for the last time),” Walsh said.

“I’m forever grateful for what the Warriors have done for me. I’ve had really good days here, and I’ve had really bad days, and they’ve been with me through it all. It’s all love for the club.

“I’ll be sitting down with my family over the next few weeks and thinking about the time I’ve spent here. I’ve really enjoyed my time at the club and I regret that I’m leaving.

“Say I’m happy to be home with the family and friends I grew up with.”

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