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Finals focus: Unwanted pair confident they can help Warriors to playoffs

Unwanted at their previous clubs, mid-season recruits Chad Townsend and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak have lofty goals for their time at the Warriors.

Townsend insists there are no hard feelings at being discarded by the Sharks despite kicking a match-winning field goal in his last act for the team while Watene-Zelezniak was also philosophical about being deemed surplus to requirements at the struggling Bulldogs.

Townsend returns to the Warriors after two seasons at the club in 2014-15 for just the rest of this year but hopes to pilot the team to a finals berth.

Watene-Zelezniak gets an opportunity to play for the only NRL side that represents the nation of his birth and is adamant a premiership can be won in his minimum 3.5-year deal.

Townsend still has a Warriors jersey hanging up in his house and reckons his prior time at the club will help speed up his transition back into the team.

Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. ©

"It happened pretty quickly, to be honest. I got a phone call a few weeks ago from my manager to say there was a bit of interest in me to move mid-season and something I needed to seriously consider," Townsend said.

"A day later I got a call from Nathan Brown and probably three days after that the deal was done. It's a bit surreal.

"For me it was a pretty easy decision. I know this club, I've played for the club before, I've got the jersey hanging up in my house. I've got an emotional connection with this club and I'm very happy to be here.

Bulldogs players farewell DWZ with Haka

"We've got a chance to do something special this year and to sneak into the eight. If we're good enough we'll be there, our destiny is in our hands. It's an exciting opportunity."

He said there were no hard feelings over his departure from Cronulla, his junior club and one where he won a premiership in 2016.

"It's been crazy the last month. I was really surprised when I wasn't selected the week after I kicked the field goal!" he laughed.

"I think I was probably the first person ever to kick a field goal in golden point then not be selected the week after. I was a little bit surprised, I was caught off guard but I just tried to get on with what I could do.

"This opportunity came up and I wanted to jump at it with both hands.

"It would have been great to play out the rest of the year at Cronulla but we're in a business where things can chop and change straight away.

Townsend steps up in golden point

"While I've had great memories and a great time at the Sharks, having a send-off or whatever is not really too important to me. What's important is my football ... I've departed the club amicably, I've had a great time there, it's time to move on to other opportunities."

He hoped his big-game experience – which includes five consecutive finals campaigns – could help boost the Warriors into the 2021 playoffs in what will be a short stint before he takes up a long-term deal at North Queensland.

"[My role is] to just be myself, do what I'm good at which is getting the team around the park with my talk and organisation and a solid kicking game. Every time I lace up the boots I'm really confident in what I can bring to a team and Browny's been really straightforward with what he expects from me."

Watene-Zelezniak was delighted to be able to take his young family back to his homeland.

Emotional Townsend reveals why he signed with Cowboys

"Being born in New Zealand and growing up there for a little while before I came to Aussie, you always follow the Warriors and always hope they do well because they're the only team in the country," he said.

"Being in Aussie you don't really think you'll have the chance to play for the Warriors so it was never really in the back of your mind thinking you'll pull on that jersey so when it did come knocking and the Bulldogs weren't interested in having me anymore I sort of just, it felt surreal and I guess a big thing for me was being able to take my family back.

"I'm married with two kids and one due in about three weeks so I think a big one was being able to take my family back to where I grew up and being able to experience a bit of my culture and where I come from."

He believed his departure from Canterbury was just a business decision, he added.

"The Bulldogs, we've been losing games so they have to sort things out and I respect that," he said.

"I understand how footy works, I've been around for a little while now and I know how football works, when a team's not doing too well you have to try and find ways to free up money in the cap and buy people who you think will work."

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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