Warriors CEO Cameron George has told those urging Reece Walsh to break his contract with the club to join the Dolphins to back off and has clarified the welfare clause in the fullback’s contract.
Walsh is signed with the Warriors for next season and has an option in his favor for 2024.
But after the Dolphins missed out on Kalyn Ponga, it has been suggested by some in the Australian media, including the Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield on NRL360, that the Dolphins should target Walsh and encourage him to force his way out of the Warriors early.
Undoubtedly the Dolphins would love to have Walsh next season, especially after missing out on so many other targets and he would be seen as a player the club can build its future around.
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The Dolphins’ recruitment manager is Peter O’Sullivan, who previously snatched him away from the Broncos when working for the Warriors last season.
But George has called for an end to the speculation on Walsh not being with the Warriors next year, because the 19-year-old isn’t going anywhere.
“Making comments like that (breaking contracts), whether it’s the media, the Dolphins or whoever, it’s clearly breaching the rules to state an intent to break a contract,” George said.
“Reece is an integral part of our footy team and our club, we love having him at our club and he’s really enjoying being here.
“Without a doubt, we’ve seen the development of him underneath our coaching staff.
“I think everyone should back off him, he’s under contract and that’s it in a nutshell.
“Give the kid a break and stop trying to use him as a negotiation tool.
“Obviously, the Dolphins have got an insight into the contracts in place at our club, given their recruitment manager.
“It’s disappointing that it continues to get played out in the media, through various people when clearly the kid is under contract.
“The NRL need to make a stance here and stop this chat about discussions on contracts being broken.
“Surely that wasn’t the intent of bringing in the 17th team, so that those sorts of discussions could take place.”
A welfare clause in Walsh’s contract has been held up as a way for him to escape his contract at the Warriors and join either the Dolphins or Broncos and in the past players have exploited things like this to switch clubs.
But George clarified that the clause isn’t one where Walsh could simply force his way out and it was put into his contract by mutual agreement.
“The purpose of that [clause] is that we were dealing with a young kid leaving a development contract to go into the NRL, ”George said.
“Moving to the Warriors, he understands perfectly that New Zealand is going to be his home. He’s got a great connection to New Zealand (his birth mother di lui is a Kiwi) and he understood that coming here was always the case.
“Through his management, and rightly so as a young person with a young family, he has the ability to talk to the club in a very narrow field of welfare, and we both understand what that.
“His manager is such a professional operator and numerous times he’s said that they’re not there to abuse that clause.
“We all clearly understand the parameters of that discussion, but it was one that was very important for them and us, for a young person like Reece at the time he signed for the club.
“If others want to try to exploit that, that’s disrespectful to Reece and his family.”
Publicly, Walsh has brushed aside the endless debate about his future, but it has taken its toll.
“He’s such a terrific person and if you’re around him, you just can’t help receive energy off him,” George said.
“He’s happy and I just wish everyone would back off the kid.
“He doesn’t deserve the headlines, all he’s doing is his job. He’s enjoying life and he’s now been caught up due to certain individuals wanting to make a song and dance about that clause.
“I think it’s cruel for Reece. Let him enjoy life, let him enjoy footy. He’s 19, let him be. “