The Roosters have been dealt a bitter blow ahead of the NRL season after reports Joseph Manu has all but agreed to join rugby union in 2025. The superstar New Zealand international admitted earlier in the week that playing for the All Blacks was a "dream" for Kiwi players and that a potential code switch was something that intrigued him.
However, it's now emerged that Manu's interest has become concrete, with multiple outlets claiming he's informed the Roosters of his decision to leave at the end of the 2024 season. It's understood the Roosters cannot compete financially with rival offers from rugby and can only afford to offer the representative star around $800,000 per season.
Manu reportedly has more lucrative offers from rugby clubs in Japan and France but is said to be leaning towards a move to Europe. The Sydney Morning Herald reports he is weighing up a $1.1 million from France and that his exit from the NRL will be all but assured unless he has a massive change of heart.
The move would see Manu become the second Roosters star to leave the club for rugby union after the 2024 season, with young gun Joseph Suaalii last year signing a big-money deal that will see him make the switch to the 15-a-side game in 2025. Manu has become one of the most important players at the recent over recent seasons and the bombshell news about his likely departure has left fans shattered.
The Chooks have been pretty solid with recruitment & retention in the past but it’s a massive blow saying au revoir to Joey Manu.
He should be the face of the team from now to 2030..#NRL
— Nathan Brookes (@BrookesyNat) February 8, 2024
I’ll be gutted if Joey Manu goes to Rugby. While he’s basically achieved everything in rugby league, I feel as though he has still not reached his ceiling yet being stuck at centre his whole club career.A year at fullback and he’d be the best player in the world. Comfortably.
— Jake Clare (@Clare2727Jacob) February 8, 2024
Joey Manu is to leave the Roosters at the end of the season for Rugby Union 😯 🏉 #NRL
— Graham Park (@GrahamPark15) February 8, 2024
— Tadhg Rohan (@tadhgrohan) February 8, 2024
— James Cheeseman @shaggy84329.bsky.social (@shaggy84329) February 8, 2024
Did not see this coming!!
What a massive loss for the Roosters.
Especially with Suaali’i leaving too.
Who will they look to replace him…. 🤔
Rugby Union gets another one back over League… 👀#Manu #Roosters #NRL https://t.co/bZXekAH6Jn
— Michael Ponticello (@therealminirabs) February 8, 2024
Joseph Manu says playing for All Blacks is a 'dream'
The New Zealand international and former Golden Boot winner - who has emerged as one of the biggest stars on the Test arena - told Nine News earlier this week that a new "challenge" in rugby union could be something that appeals to him. Manu said if he made a change it would not be to a rival NRL club but admitted the allure of representing the All Blacks would be "pretty cool".
"I've been here for a long time now and Roosters is pretty much home for me... if I'm playing rugby league, I'm here at the Roosters," Manu told Nine News. "I'm not too sure what I will end up doing, but rugby is a challenge and it's something different, something new. If I go and play rugby, I will be focused on rugby - not really going and coming back sort of thing.
"Obviously [playing for] the All Blacks would be pretty cool. That's a Kiwi's dream. It's the option to try and challenge myself. I think for any player, that's where they grow as a player and a person."
The Manu bombshell comes amid reports the Roosters have extended playmaker Luke Keary for one more year, putting an end to speculation he might retire due to numerous concussions. Keary was off contract at the end of the year but it's understood that the new deal will keep him at the club until the end of the 2025 season.
Keary was the 2018 Clive Churchill Medal winner and a key part of the club's back-to-back premiership success. However, his career at the Tri Colours has been marred by a number of nasty head knocks, with Keary suffering four concussions in 18 months from January 2018 - the last of which saw him take a one-month break from footy. The 32-year-old also spent another month on the sidelines after a head knock against the Storm in round 14 in 2022.
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