Recently retired Catalans playmaker Luke Walsh agreed to terms with Wests on Friday and may team up with another former NRL pivot Ryan Stig in the halves before the end of 2018.
Cleared by Newcastle Rugby League officials inside 48 hours of the June 30 transfer deadline, Wests coach Matt Lantry said there was no certainly of Walsh lacing up the boots during the second half of the season but the prospect of a combination with five-eighth Stig was exciting.
“It’s not often you get the chance for a pair of former NRL players to team up in the halves,” Lantry said.
“I’m not sure if it’s going to happen yet, but it would be a handy combination.”
The 31-year-old halfback, who played 120 NRL games for the Knights and Panthers between 2007 and 2013, announced his retirement from the French-based Catalans Dragons in April after sustaining ankle ligament damage in round three of the English Super League.
Lantry said Walsh, who featured in 88 top-grade matches overseas since 2014 including a stint at St Helens, hasn’t yet landed in the country and is due back in the Hunter region shortly.
The Wests junior is “good friends” with Rosellas veteran and Newcastle representative captain Warren Schillings while his brother Ryan is five-eighth at Maitland.
”He [Walsh] agreed to terms today and we won’t know if he’s fully fit until he’s back, but we’d be mad not to use him if he’s here,” Lantry said. “Even if he doesn’t play, he’s still a good bloke to have around.”
This deal comes less than seven days since sacked Knights utility Dylan Phythian, now cleared to play for Queensland Cup outfit Burleigh Bears, lined-up for Lakes in his comeback from a 12-week drug suspension.
Further bolstering Wests’ ranks was confirmation this week club stalwart Peter Mannion will be available to play after returning from holidays on July 8.
On Sunday the Rosellas are away to Central at St John Oval. Elsewhere on Sunday and Macquarie visit Lakes at Cahill Oval and Souths host Kurri at Townson Oval. Cessnock are at home to Maitland, minus suspended Geordie Connolly, on Saturday.
Kick-off is 3pm.
Meanwhile, Macquarie’s Brad Russell will be sidelined for a further two matches after receiving a three-game suspension for a serious-grade striking charge at the Newcastle RL judiciary this week. The incident was put on report late in a reserve-grade fixture against Cessnock at Lyall Peacocok Field on June 16.
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