The New Zealand Warriors are set to hand talented rookie dummy half Taniela Otukolo an upgraded top 30 deal for the 2022 NRL season.
That news comes as the club also prepare to release Temple Kalepo to the Newcastle Knights, with the second young gun also playing at dummy half and clearly behind Otukolo in the pecking order.
He was due to be on the Warriors' 30-man roster in 2022, but it would appear Otukolo is set to take that spot, according to a Stuff.co.nz report.
The 19-year-old made his debut in the 2021 NRL season as the Warriors' battled a mass injury crisis, at one point not being able to name 21 players.
He would go on to make three appearances, including starting a Round 20 contest against the Wests Tigers. He previously played from the bench in Round 15 against the Newcastle Knights and South Sydney Rabbitohs, playing 61 minutes in the second of those.
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While he didn't score or assist any tries in those three games, the 19-year-old provided solid service to his forwards and wasn't afraid to take the line on when it was needed.
Rated as one of the most talented junior players in New Zealand, Otukolo could immediately push for a spot in the dummy half role alongside Wayde Egan and Jazz Tevaga.
In a sign of what could be to come, Egan is off-contract at the end of the 2022 season and has not yet been offered a new deal by the Warriors - who have one of the smallest off-contract lists across the competition as negotiations ramp up between rival clubs and off-contract players following the November 1 deadline.
Kalepo, despite being set to move onto the 30-man squad for the Warriors, is yet to make his NRL debut, but is also rated as a talent and could go down as a useful pick up for the Knights. He will, however, likely have to settle for being the third-string hooker behind Jayden Brailey and the recently upgraded Chris Randall.
According to the Stuff report however, Otukolo is so highly rated that the Warriors didn't actively pursue Brandon Smith because he was in the system.
The former New Zealand under-18 residents representative has been in the Warriors' system for many years, having represented the Warriors' SG Ball team in 2020 and then spending time with the Redcliffe Dolphins Colts and Queensland Cup side during 2021.
It could be expected he will sit behind Egan in 2022, although he will likely fight with Kodi Nikorima and Tevaga for the 14 jersey on the bench, with Tevaga no longer having a mortgage on lock thanks to the return of Tohu Harris.