Parramatta have hit their first retention hurdle with Marata Niukore to leave the club at the end of next year and join the Warriors.
With just nine of their squad contracted beyond the end of 2022, Niukore became the first to sign elsewhere on Wednesday with a four-year deal across the Tasman.
It's believed the Warriors were able to blow the Eels out of the water with a big-money deal, leaving him to take up a far bigger role in the pack at Auckland given his price.
"We're absolutely thrilled to sign Marata on a long-term deal," Warriors CEO Cameron George said.
"We had him marked down as one of our key recruitment targets once we were able to go to the market for players off contract after the 2022 season.
"His home is Auckland, he knows our club really well and he's now a well-established first grader who's going to be a key player for us.
"He's a really big part of our long-term future through to 2026."
A former Junior Kiwi, Niukore came through the Warriors system before moving to Sydney as a 20-year-old in 2017.
But his defection does highlight the predicament the Eels find themselves in as they juggle the 17 remaining off-contract players and salary cap puzzle at the same time.
They were able to re-sign Reagan Campbell-Gillard last week, but only after he'd publicly flirted with the idea of eyeing a move to the Dolphins.
Hooker Reed Mahoney was spotted meeting with Canterbury this week, and given the Bulldogs' desire for a hooker it's expected they too will offer big money.
Isaiah Papali'i is another man known to be testing his value after a breakthrough season, and is expected to become a target for Wests Tigers.
Captain Clint Gutherson and five-eighth Dylan Brown are among others off-contract at the end of 2022, including Junior Paulo, Maika Sivo and Ryan Matterson.
The Eels are however adamant they will be able to keep the majority of their stars, claiming last week that negotiations with player managers had been "robust, professional and constructive".
PARRAMATTA PLAYERS OFF-CONTRACT AT THE END OF 2022
Jakob Arthur, Dyland Brown, Haze Dunster, Clint Gutherson, Wiremu Greig, Keegan Hipgrave, Oregon Kaufusi, Reed Mahoney, Makaheisi Makatoa, Ryan Matterson, Solomone Naiduki, Tom Opacic, Isaiah Papali'i, Junior Paulo, Hayze Perham Maika Sivo, Ray Stone.
Australian Associated Press
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