Jon Tuxworth August 09, 2012
Joel Edwards will be a key signing for the Raiders, club great Alan Tongue says. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
They've played just 79 games between them, but former skipper Alan Tongue believes the Canberra Raiders will boast the NRL's two biggest hitters in Josh Papalii and Joel Edwards next season.
They're young, tough as teak and love nothing more than putting on an old-fashioned bellringer.
And Tongue predicted the arrival of Newcastle enforcer Edwards would stiffen a Raiders pack headed by Papalii and Joel Thompson.
Edwards will begin a three-year deal with the Raiders next season after they fought off interest from Parramatta to sign the 23-year-old firebrand.
''I couldn't believe it when I read it, he's a good quality footballer,'' Tongue said. ''I was doing [radio] commentary [for the Canberra-Newcastle game in round 21] talking about I was interested in seeing the two biggest hitters I think in the NRL, one being Josh Papalii, and the other Joel Edwards.
''To have both of those guys in your team … I just think they're two really tough defenders, that's how highly I rate them both.
''It's almost like every tackle you go into against a Josh Papalii or a Joel Edwards, you're earning your keep.
''It's not just every now and then they come off with a bellringer, every tackle they go into there's plenty of heat in it.''
However, Tongue was quick to point out his fellow redhead shouldn't be pigeon-holed as a defensive specialist. ''He's got plenty of skill as well with his ball playing and footwork, I think it's a huge boost for our club,'' he said.
''With injuries your depth gets tested, and this is only going to bolster it once again.''
Edwards's signing, plus the recruitment of fringe Bulldog Jake Foster, means the Raiders will almost certainly offload second row talent next year to accommodate them.
The Canberra Times understands Bronson Harrison would be free to leave should he find a new suitor, despite having two years to run on his contract, and Trevor Thurling has been given permission to speak to rival clubs.
''There'll be some [player] movement and what not, but you need to have that depth,'' Tongue said.
''The potential's always been there, and adding Joel Edwards is only going to help.''
Despite rating the recruitment of the Cessnock product as a huge coup for his former club, Tongue said it highlighted the need to review the need for junior concessions.
The Raiders have been one of the more vocal clubs about the issue, having lost a number of local products they've developed in recent years. ''I think clubs should be rewarded for developing kids and putting so much time and effort into grassroots footy,'' Tongue said.
''There are concessions at the moment, but that's taken from when you start playing first grade.
''Some kids can be in the background and you've put so much effort into them since the under-15s, then they might play a couple of years [of first grade] and they go. It needs to be looked at before they actually make first grade.''