Rugby League: Death keeps faith with troubled Warriors
By Peter Jessup
Nuggety hooker Jason Death gave his Auckland Warriors a huge vote of confidence yesterday when he signed on at the struggling club for another three years.
Death gave two reasons for sticking around. "Mark Graham is a big plus because I reckon he'll get a team to the semis in the next couple of years; and once you get there, anything can happen."
It is a big gamble for Death, now aged 27. The Warriors might be his last National Rugby League club after Canberra and North Queensland, his last chance to get a grand final medal to put beside the one he scored with the Raiders in 1994.
"It's getting up there," he agrees of the 30 years he will be when the deal ends. He would like to try England then, but maybe things will be working out in Auckland. He likes Auckland.
"The people are great and the club's been great. They gave me an opportunity," he said.
And he grabbed it with both hands, as anyone watching his performances until he was clocked by Rodney Howe in the game against Melbourne a month ago can attest.
And he appears set to keep on grabbing it, if he can get past new flatmate Robert Mears, who was signed on Monday and plays against Canberra on Sunday, because Syd Eru is out of the running for the season with a recurring injury.
Warriors chief executive officer Trevor McKewen said it was also off-field attitude that prompted them to hang on to the rake.
"The Monday after Jason broke his jaw he was in here offering his services in promotional and charity work," he said.
The management are also quietly happy that Death's deal signals that Aussies are happy at the club. They have asked "the Doctor" to offer recommendations about the club as they negotiate with his countrymen and he has agreed.
The new deal is significantly up on his starting price, which McKewen described as "bargain basement," but contains incentive clauses like all the new contracts.
Death will be happy to get back on field, to get a crack at the bonus dollars paid for playing and winning, once his shattered jaw heals.
The contract was his second reason to celebrate this week: the first came on Tuesday when wires were removed from his mouth. He had been on fruit and vegetable juice, milkshakes and soup since April 9.
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