League: Warriors line up Leuluai

The Warriors are hoping to lure Kiwis hooker Thomas Leuluai back to Mt Smart in 2013, a decade after he made his debut for the club as a 17-year-old.

Leuluai started his career with the Warriors in 2003, becoming the youngest player to appear for the club, but having limited game time behind Stacey Jones and Lance Hohaia.

That prompted him to sign for the London Broncos in the UK Super League in 2005 and he spent two seasons there before moving to Wigan.

He helped them to the 2010 Super League title, their first since 1998, with a man-of-the-match performance in their grand final win over St Helens and is now regarded as one of the league's best players.

Wigan are desperate to hang onto the 26-year-old playmaker, who usually plays hooker for the Kiwis but in the halves for his club.

A number of NRL clubs are also said to be interested in securing his services, including the Warriors.

Leuluai could be seen as a replacement for livewire five-eighth James Maloney who is expected to leave Mt Smart Stadium at the end of next season.

But the Warriors are working hard to retain Maloney as well as sign Leuluai. They also have promising halfback Shaun Johnson, who burst onto the scene in the second half of the NRL season, signed until the end of 2013 and hooker Nathan Friend will join from the Titans next season.

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah declined to comment on Leuluai but said they were doing everything they could to re-sign Maloney.

The 25-year-old played a significant hand in helping the Warriors to this year's grand final but it is expected he will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of 2012. He wants to return to play in Australia, with South Sydney a possible destination.

"It's still our desire to retain James,'' Scurrah said. "We have been in discussions with him since May and are still in discussions. His agent has been upfront that he's a player of interest to a number of clubs.

"We are aware of that. We have made it clear we want to keep him and he's committed to the club for next season. We are doing our best to retain him beyond that.''

Scurrah said they would soon make a number of announcements about players they had re-signed as they shape their first-grade and under-20 squads for the next couple of seasons.

Pre-season training under new coach Brian McClennan starts on November 21.

Speculation surfaced as early as June that Leuluai was hoping to leave Wigan at the end of 2011 and follow his coach, Michael Maguire, to the Rabbitohs. But Leuluai said he would see out his contract.

Speculation remains he will head to Souths in 2013 but APNZ understands Leuluai has advised the Rabbitohs he will join the Warriors instead.

When asked if he was being lined up to replace Maloney at the Warriors, he told APNZ: `I don't know _ you'll have to ask James Maloney about that, bro,'' Leuluai said.

"I've got one more year at Wigan. I've really enjoyed my time at Wigan. When the time comes, I'll make the decision.''

Leuluai is a regular in the Kiwis and the only UK-based player in the present side contesting the Four Nations. He made his international debut in 2003, when he became the second-youngest player to play for New Zealand, and has since amassed 25 test caps.

- Michael Brown and Steve Mascord

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