Mateo mulls move to Panthers

Mateo mulls move to Panthers

WITH his price tag seemingly about to soar, there are no guarantees the Warriors will retain Feleti Mateo at the end of this year.

Negotiations are under way to re-sign the prized asset, but the Penrith Panthers have indicated their interest, which could leave the Warriors locked in a tug-of-war for Mateo's services.

Feeling fitter ... Feleti Mateo.

Feeling fitter ... Feleti Mateo.

Photo: Getty Images

"We've started discussions with Feleti and his agent," Warriors general manager Dean Bell said. "We met with his agent a couple of months ago. Both the club and [coach] Matt [Elliott] are really keen to retain him.

"It will come down to a personal decision. The ball is in his court. We'll respect his wishes that he wants time to think about it."

After shipping Michael Jennings to the Roosters - and shedding most of his $1.8 million, three-year contract, plus offloading Michael Gordon and Luke Lewis to the Cronulla Sharks, the Panthers' books are in a healthy state. They want to spend and Mateo, the Warriors' All Stars representative next month, could be a prime target.


Mateo who is about to start his third year in Auckland, would like to stay, but a move closer to Sydney, could appeal if the Panthers' offer is right.

The chance to work with former Warriors turned Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, who enticed Lewis Brown to jump ship, could be another incentive.

"I'm the sort of bloke that would never say no," Mateo said of a possible move. "I've worked with Ivan before and had a good relationship with him. Penrith being close to Parramatta is obviously another bonus.

"I'm really happy here and I'll give the Warriors all my respect and loyalty first, but if I can't work out a deal with them I'll move elsewhere. But my intentions are to stay at the Warriors and hopefully I can get that sorted. We'll see how the start of the year goes. It's always nice to know you're wanted."

It's clear the Warriors have to significantly increase Mateo's contract to keep him beyond this year.

NSW coach Laurie Daley is a strong supporter of the back-rower's attacking genius, which could open the door for his State of Origin debut, after he switched allegiance from Tonga to Australia last year. That would only increase interest levels, and his market value.

There are suggestions the 28-year-old could be ready for a breakout year. After a torrid pre-season, the former Eels star is in the best shape of his career.

"I've dropped a bit of weight, a couple of kilograms, and feel fitter,'' he said. ''I was aiming to lose weight. I've started eating differently and it started to fall off me.

"It's always been a bit of a struggle for me in the past. My body shape is different but I'm starting to trim up."

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