Warrington Wolves-linked centre opts to remain in Australia with new NRL club

Ben Olawumi
Morgan Harper Manly Sea Eagles Alamy

Morgan Harper in action for Manly Sea Eagles in 2023 - Alamy

NRL ace Morgan Harper has penned a one-year deal with Parramatta Eels for the 2024 campaign, making the switch from Manly Sea Eagles.

Back in August, Code Sports reported that Super League outfit Warrington Wolves had set their sights on Harper.

Instead, Sam Burgess’ side picked up Papua New Guinea star Rodrick Tai, who has spent time with the Dolphins down under this term without making an appearance, having previously featured in the Queensland Cup for the PNG Hunters.

New Zealand-born Harper – who also has Irish heritage – is of Maori descent, and has represented the Maori All Stars as well as the Junior Kiwis.

Playing junior rugby league for the Ngaruawahia Panthers in the Waikato Rugby League, the centre debuted in the NRL for Canterbury Bulldogs in 2019 against Brisbane Broncos.

Having played just once more for the Bulldogs the following year, he made a mid-season switch to Manly, getting an early release from his contract to do so. In the three-and-a-half years which have followed, the 25-year-old has made 56 appearances for the Sea Eagles, scoring 15 tries.

He now moves to the Eels – who finished 10th this term – on a one-year deal, looking to re-invigorate his career after a year which has seen him play just nine times.

Meanwhile, ahead of Burgess’ move back to England, the incoming Wire boss has a lot to ponder when it comes to the three and four slots.

Warrington Wolves’ centre options for 2024 as former reported target makes NRL move

Burgess’ selection headache when it comes to his centres will be a nice problem to have.

While PNG ace Tai has been recruited, when you look at the options as the new head coach’s disposal, he’s probably bottom of the list at present.

Captain Stefan Ratchford – Burgess’ former England team-mate – made 30 appearances this year, surpassing the 300 mark for the club, and now is just three away from 450 career appearances.

Of those 30, all bar one saw him start at left centre. The one exclusion came in defeat at Castleford Tigers back in June, moving up to stand-off at the Jungle.

Next to Ratchford for the majority of 2023 was Peter Mata’utia, who has confirmed his retirement, with Greg Minikin – another departee – filling in when required and youngster Connor Wrench making a comeback from injury late on to feature sporadically in that number three spot.

A fully fit Wrench will be back available, but so will Toby King, who returns to the Halliwell Jones following a year on loan at Wigan Warriors which has seen him crowned a Super League champion.

The 27-year-old has been a key cog as a loanee for the Cherry and Whites, culminating in their 10-2 Grand Final triumph over Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Given the success he’s experienced during his time at the DW Stadium, Burgess will surely favour sticking him back in his starting 13 for the Wire next term.

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