'We'll look back fondly on what he's done' - Simon Mannering pays trubite to Warriors' owner Eric Watson

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Veteran back-rower Simon Mannering has paid tribute to Warriors owner Eric Watson for saving professional rugby league in New Zealand at its lowest ebb as a sale of the club appears imminent.

Eric Watson and Simon Mannering

Eric Watson and Simon Mannering

Source: Photosport

Businessman Paul Davys told The New Zealand Herald yesterday he was negotiating with Watson to buy the Warriors, and only the finer details were left to resolve.

He hoped to make an announcement within a week.

Watson admitted in a statement he was in conversation with "a few different parties" about selling the Warriors, but insisted he was in no hurry, having purchased the struggling NRL franchise in 2000 and nursed it back to health.

Mannering, a one-club man who made his Warriors debut in 2005, said he knew little of the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the pair.

But the loss of Watson - who is now UK-based - would be a great pity, after stepping in to rejuvenate the NRL's sole Kiwi side 17 years ago.

"He's obviously done too many great things for the game in New Zealand from when the Warriors were doing it really tough. If that's the case, I'm sure we'll look back fondly on what he's done," vice-captain Mannering said.

The Warriors are one of just two NRL franchises to have never won a premiership - along with the Gold Coast Titans - and have failed to live up to their potential in recent years, missing six straight finals series.

Davys told the Herald that the Warriors were the custodians of rugby league in New Zealand, and he wanted to drive the club to success.

He is a co-director of Auckland childcare business ChoiceKids, along with former Kiwi international and current player agent Peter Brown.

Mannering admitted changes on and off the field may be beneficial.

"It's been six years now where we've been out of the playoffs and that's too long for any club, especially with the roster we've had," the 30-year-old said.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney declined to comment on the potential sale after his side's 36-16 loss to Canberra on Sunday, saying it was out of his control.

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