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Manu tells Roosters he's leaving for lucrative rugby deal - but club lock down replacement

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8th February, 2024
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The Sydney Roosters are bracing themselves for the departure of one of their biggest stars with Kiwi international Joey Manu set to leave the club at the end of the year to take up a deal in rugby union.

According to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, the centre has informed the club that he will likely leave, though no deal has been signed elsewhere.

The same morning that the news broke, however, the Roosters announced an extension for Billy Smith, the centre who would be top of the list to replace Manu if he departs.

Smith has struggled with injuries over the last few years but cemented a place in the starting line-up late last year and will be in the mix again in 2024.

He has signed a three-year extension and will remain at the club until at least the end of the 2027 season.

“I’ve often spoken about how grateful I am any chance I get to represent the Sydney Roosters and to know that I’m going to be here for at least another three years is something I’m stoked about,” he said.

“The Club has always had a lot of belief in me, and I know that my best footy is still ahead of me. I can’t wait for what’s to come and I’m looking forward to continuing to play my role for the team.”

Manu has no shortage of offers, but is thought to prefer Europe over Japan, and would be expected to command far more than the $800,000 he could earn at the Roosters due to salary cap constraints.

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Manu was also coveted by other NRL clubs – notably the Dragons – and had been linked with a short-term switch to Japan, but is now expected to leave entirely, though if he returns to rugby league in the future, he has informed the Roosters that it will only be to play for them.

Speaking earlier in the week to the Herald, Manu expressed an interest in switching codes. “It’s an option, I think rugby is a challenge,” the former Golden Boot said.

“If I go to play rugby, I’m focused on rugby, not on coming back.

“You could probably go there and come back, but the focus isn’t really going there to just play for a few months and come back. It’s not really that.

“I grew up playing rugby but it’s really just a case of looking at all options and that was one that was tossed up.

“I’ve been at the Roosters for 10 years now. It’s been a long time and I love the place. That makes it very hard to leave but we’ll see what happens.”

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Joseph Manu. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

If he leaves, he will be the second major departure to rugby union in recent years after winger – and Manu’s great mate – Joseph Suaalii, who will link up with the Waratahs and Wallabies at the end of this year.

The Roosters’ salary cap situation is complex, making a more competitive deal for Manu more difficult, as is his career progression.

James Tedesco is locked in until the end of 2025 at the earliest, taking up significant cash as well as the captaincy and starting fullback role that Manu, who won a Golden Boot wearing the 1 for New Zealand, would likely take over should Teddy retire.

Luke Keary is also set to extend for another year, taking him until the end of 2025, when it had previosuly been expected that he would retire following a series of head knocks.

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