Matulino denies signing with Wests Tigers

Author
David Skipwith, NZ Herald Staff ,
Section
League,
Publish Date
Thursday, 20 April 2017, 4:00PM
Warriors front-rower Ben Matulino could be making a move across the Tasman in 2018. (Photosport)
Warriors front-rower Ben Matulino could be making a move across the Tasman in 2018. (Photosport)

The Warriors deny that off-contract front-rower Ben Matulino has agreed to terms with Wests Tigers for next season and remain hopeful of keeping him in Auckland.

Matulino today told Warriors coach Stephen Kearney he had not signed with the joint venture club following reports he will head to Sydney after his contract expires at the end of the season.

The 28-year-old held talks with Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights officials last weekend as he contemplates a move away from Auckland.

Warriors recruitment manager Tony Iro said the club had made Matulino an offer and were waiting for a decision on whether he would stay.

"We haven't heard that so that's all I can say on it," said Iro.

"He's told us he hasn't (signed with Wests Tigers) so that's all I can go off.

"He told Mooks (Kearney) this morning (that he hasn't signed).

"We've made him an offer so that means we want him to stay but at the end of the day that will be his and his family's decision."

Matulino's manager Steve Gillis could not confirm the Tigers deal and said his client's future remained up in the air.

"He hasn't committed anywhere," said Gillis.

"I'm really not sure. It will sort itself out in the next few days.

"It's a work in progress."

A move to Wests Tigers would see Matulino play under former Warriors and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary who coached the Kiwis international in Auckland between 2008 and 2011.

Matulino would be the first of 20 off-contract Warriors players to sign elsewhere and could be the first domino to fall amid a hectic NRL player transfer market.

Fellow Warriors front-rowers Jacob Lillyman, James Gavet and Charlie Gubb, and Albert Vete are also off-contract but re-signing halves pair Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson has been the club's first priority.

If Matulino was to join Wests Tigers it would leave the club's current captain Aaron Woods' future under a cloud with the NSW Origin front-rower heavily linked to the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Woods is reported to be set to move to Belmore on a three-year deal reportedly worth A$1 million per season which in turn could have repercussions for Bulldogs captain and front-rower James Graham.

The speculation continues after Matulino was included in the Warriors initial 21-man squad for next week's Anzac Day clash against Melbourne in what would be his first appearance of the season.

The two-time Warriors Player of the Year (2012 and 2015) underwent knee operation in January before suffering another setback when he contracted an infection post-surgery.

The Wellington-born forward is on the verge of reaching the 200 game milestone having made 196 NRL appearances since making his Warriors debut midway through the 2008 season.

Warriors off-contract in 2017: Matthew Allwood, Blake Ayshford, Erin Clark, Kieran Foran, James Gavet, Charlie Gubb, Ato Hingano, Ryan Hoffman, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Mason Lino, Ben Matulino, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Ofahiki Ogden, Nathaniel Roache, Ligi Sao, Patrick Sipley, Toafofoa Sipley, Bodene Thompson, Albert Vete.

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