Rugby League

Gungahlin Bulls add former Canberra Raider David Howell to recruits

Former Canberra Raiders utility Lincoln Withers has backed once-teammate Josh McCrone to make the successful switch from half to hooker as the 32-year-old prepares for his own return to Canberra's rugby league scene.

The Gungahlin Bulls have snared Withers and former Raiders winger David Howell for 2014, the pair returning from the European Super League to bolster the Canberra Raiders Cup competition.

Withers, who made the transformation from half to hooker during his 154 games in the NRL and 113 matches in the Super League, backed McCrone to excel in his own move to dummy-half.

''He's a runner, he's a tough kid, he's fit and I think most hookers these days are ex-halfbacks anyway,'' Withers said.

''There's not too many of the old rough and tough hookers any more, everything's played off the dummy-half and I think halfback is now made for that mould.

''There's a bit more defence, but once he gets the fitness and engine in him, I think he'll excel.''

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Withers confirmed he'd held informal talks with NRL clubs, including the Raiders, about a return this year after leaving Hull KR.

But a shoulder operation in the UK, which needed repairing in Australia, set him back.

''When I first came back I was talking to a couple of clubs, but it's touch-and-go for the start of the season so it was a bit of a risk for them and I had to move on,'' Withers said.

''If my shoulder gets fixed, the fitness feels as good as it ever has. If there was an opportunity [to play NRL again] I'd never say no.

''The footballer in me is still dreaming and I'd love to keep doing it, but the reality is I've got four kids and it might be time for a new chapter.''

Withers talked Howell into joining the Gungahlin Bulls after he chose to leave the London Broncos last year. The pair are close friends since their days at the St George Illawarra Dragons and Raiders.

Howell, 30, played 48 of his 60 NRL games with the Raiders between 2005-07.

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