The New Zealand Warriors have recently confirmed the additions of both Luke Metcalf and Marata Niukore for the 2023 season, but rumours refuse to go away that the duo could depart their respective clubs early.
The Cronulla Sharks and Parramatta Eels, while seemingly unlikely to release either of the pair to the Warriors earlier than the end of their current deals, could be enticed with room in the salary cap generated for players who are no longer part of either clubs long-term future plans.
The Sharks could handle the loss of Metcalf a season early. They have added Nicho Hynes to their ranks in the halves, while Braydon Trindall and Matt Moylan are likely to battle with Metcalf for the spot to pair Hynes.
At the Eels, a strong forward pack with plenty of depth means all they would lose out of letting Niukore go early is versatility, given the Warriors' bound rapid improver can play in the centres, second-row or front row.
According to Wide World of Sports' The Mole, the Warriors have substantial room in their salary cap to accommodate either one or both of the duo for 2022, however, would need to offer either financial compensation or a player swap to get either Sydney-based club over the line.
The Warriors have earmarked Metcalf as their half of the future, potentially starting alongside Shaun Johnson in 2023 and then becoming a focal point of the club for years to come.
His signing comes as rumours continue to grow around Chanel Harris-Tavita, who will test the open market before the Warriors decide whether to offer him a new deal after Round 6 next season.
Niukore would seem more unlikely to leave early given the Warriors forwards' stocks. Matt Lodge is one player who could leave the Auckland-based club at the end of 2022, with only a player option in his favour for 2023.
In saying that, the Warriors have identified him as a marquee recruit, throwing big dollars his way to make the switch to Auckland.