Rumours have been swirling about star fullback Reece Walsh's future at the New Zealand Warriors since the off-season.

While Walsh had signed a three-year contract with the Warriors as recent as 2021, the desire for the Dolphins to acquire a marquee talent in their rookie season has put even the most unavailable players in their sights.

Much of the conjecture around Walsh being lured from the Warriors after just one season, and 2022 being his first as the full-time fullback, has been his connection to Queensland football.

A product of the Keebra Park rugby league nursery on the Gold Coast, Walsh had spent years in the Brisbane Broncos development system before being lured away by the Warriors in 2021.

And this connection back to his hometown roots is being brought further into the spotlight following News Corp's discovery of a 'get-out clause' in Walsh's contract with the Warriors.

The welfare clause would essentially let Walsh walk away from the Warriors one year prior to his final contracted season, in 2023.

However, it's suggested that the recent early release of New South Wales born Warrior Euan Aitken could set a precedent for the club and their imminent return to New Zealand.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 30: Euan Aitken of the Warriors is tackled during the round 20 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the New Zealand Warriors at Suncorp Stadium, on July 30, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Aitken, similar to Walsh, has deep ties in Australia and upon the announcement of the Warriors' return to New Zealand for home games, requested an early exit from his contract at the end of this year, which was initially slated to finish at the end of 2023.

Walsh, who has spent the beginning of his tenure with the Warriors on the Central Coast and in Queensland's Redcliffe, will be faced with the same reality of leaving Australian soil come the return to New Zealand.

Warriors brass have continued to remain positive on the subject though, reiterating again that while they have a challenge on their hands retaining Walsh past his initial contract the relationship is solid and both parties are happy with how it's progressing.

“The challenge for us will be keeping Reece,” Warriors football chief Craig Hodges said.

“He hasn’t lived in New Zealand, so that will be a big move for him, but what I do know is that he is extremely happy at the Warriors and he feels like his game is developing here.

“We plan to keep him. I understand home is here (Queensland) for him, so whether the Broncos or Dolphins are a chance to get him in two or three years’ time, I can’t worry too much about that. But any suggestion he is unhappy here is not true.

“I’m confident Reece will stay. For some at guys at our club who haven’t lived in New Zealand, there is a bit of unknown about going back there, but I don’t believe it will be an issue for Reece. He has Kiwi heritage so it’s not the big deal people are making out.

“We will finally get to play in front of our fans and supporters and Reece will enjoy it. There has been some disconnection, but moving back home will bring everything back together."

Brisbane Broncos star lock Patrick Carrigan added fuel to a potential homecoming for the Queensland Maroons prospect.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Patrick Carrigan of the Broncos looks to pass the ball during the round 15 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on August 21, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

“Reecey and I used to live together. He is my little mate,” said Carrigan.

“He is a classy little player. You always knew he was going to be a freak in the game.

“I’m excited to play him this week. It will feel like an old training run at Red Hill, but he is a massive part of what they are building at the Warriors.

“I’m excited for what he is building for his young family at the Warriors, but I would love to play with Reece again one day.

“It was tough to see him leave, I knew how much he cared for the club, but in terms of the growth he has had as a footy player and learning off Roger, you can’t knock someone too much for taking those opportunities.

“I’m glad I get to play him this week and hopefully we get to link up again one day.”

While there will continue to be speculation about Walsh's future with the Warriors, and a return to New Zealand will surely be a test, he has squashed every rumour that has come his way.

“I feel pretty comfortable, I am not too fazed about where I live,” told News Corp last year.

“The boys at the Warriors have been great support and the club has been excellent. The transition won’t be too hard at all.

“I was a bit scared at first to move. Being away from family was a bit daunting, but I know they will always be there and if I need anything they will be right there.

“But that’s a part of growing up, you have to take the best opportunity for you and I feel that’s what I’ve done."