Manly steal the next BK http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22290067-5006066,00.html August 23, 2007 12:00am HE'S already been described as the next Ben Kennedy and - like the former Kangaroos great before him - rugby union's loss is the Sea Eagles' gain. Teenage rugby sensation Jared Waeara-Hargreaves has slipped through the loose grip of the Waratahs and agreed to terms with NRL club Manly for the next two years. In a switch that has left rugby insiders stunned at the Waratahs management's short-sightedness, 18-year-old Waeara-Hargreaves yesterday informed the NSWRU he's moving to the 13-man code to take up a full-time career in league. The Kiwi-born back-rower, a starting flanker in the ARC with the Central Coast Rays after just a season in first grade with Norths, was only offered a part-time deal to remain in rugby and told he'd have to wait until 2010 before joining the Tahs as a rookie. Already standing 195cm and weighing 107kg, Waeara-Hargreaves has drawn comparisons with Kennedy after being spotted by the same scout. And now the Norths flanker will follow the same career path as Kennedy, who many regard as perhaps the biggest fish the ARU ever lost when he switched codes in 1996. "I came down from Brisbane with the goal of becoming a professional footballer in a full-time environment and Manly have given me that opportunity," Waeara-Hargreaves said last night. "League is my focus now. I want to give it a real go." The Daily Telegraph reported in June that league clubs and the NZRU were circling Waeara-Hargreaves after just a handful of first-grade games for Norths. The NSWRU was only prepared to offer the rookie a spot as a "professional academy" player for the next two years before including him in Super 14 plans in 2010. A professional academy player is paid to train for just 14 hours a week. Waeara-Hargreaves' manager Mike Newton said his client's decision to leave rugby was difficult, but the chance to develop his talent full-time at a top NRL club was too good to pass up. "He's made pretty quick progress from a relative unknown to the only kid his age starting in the ARC, so he's certainly got the raw talent there to be something special in league," Newton said. Manly coach Des Hasler said he was excited about the crash-tackling youngster's potential. "Who knows how good he can be? He's only 18, that's the exciting part," Hasler said. "He's a young guy, great athlete and he's got a good head on him already. First grade is a long way away but he is a very impressive kid." Norths general manager Grant Richardson blasted rugby officials last night for letting "a future Wallaby" slip away. "Fundamentally we have a flaw in our rugby union system," Richardson said. "While some people pontificate that we can't (sign) everybody, I think we have to make sure that we do what we can to keep our best young kids in the game. "We seem to have in rugby more academies than Hollywood. There is just no guarantee of them coming back (from league)." Similar in appearance to Bulldogs star Sonny Bill Williams, Manly are enthusiastic about the potential of Waeara-Hargreaves. "Wait until you see what we do with him in 14 weeks," said a source.