Rugby League

NRL: Canberra Raiders prop Jeff Lima proves doubters wrong to keep Father Time at bay

There were plenty of eyebrows raised when the Canberra Raiders signed a 33-year-old prop who was playing in the English Super League to a two-year deal.

But veteran front-rower Jeff Lima has more than justified his recruitment, providing valuable punch off the bench along with passing on his knowledge to the club's young forwards.

Raiders prop Jeff Lima has been in outstanding form since joining the club this season.
Raiders prop Jeff Lima has been in outstanding form since joining the club this season. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Lima's appetite for work has helped the unbeaten Raiders to their best start to a season since 2005 heading into Saturday's round three clash with the struggling Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium.

Out of all the new faces that have arrived at the Raiders in the three seasons under coach Ricky Stuart, Lima's addition attracted the most pessimism from those outside the club.

He spent the past two seasons in France with the Catalans Dragons in a career that also included stops at the Wests Tigers, Melbourne Storm, Wigan and South Sydney.

But any doubt about Lima's ability to match the speed of the NRL has been completely wiped away with his performances in the opening two rounds.

Lima made an impressive debut, churning through 105 metres with 13 carries and 10 tackles in 26 action-packed minutes against the Panthers in round one.

He backed that up with 145m from 16 carries and 30 tackles in 44 minutes in the 21-20 win over the Roosters, getting more game time after lock Shaun Fensom left the field in the opening minute with concussion.

"I'm happy for him it's worked," Stuart said.

"He was a different balance of size and experience and the fact he's a winner.

"That weighed very heavily in regards to the reasons why we recruited him."

Lima played in three straight grand finals with the Melbourne Storm and won premierships in 2007 and 2009, both of which were stripped because of salary cap breaches.

He then joined Wigan, scoring two tries in the 2011 Challenge Cup final and winning the Lance Todd Trophy as the man of the match.

The strong carries and tackles Lima makes tell only half the story of his impact at the Raiders this season.

He's been brought to Canberra to mentor the team's Country Origin front-rowers Paul Vaughan and Shannon Boyd and Kangaroos and Queensland forward Josh Papalii.

The trio are locked into long-term deals at the Raiders and will form the backbone of the club's forward pack.

The most exciting part is they're all yet to hit their prime.

Boyd and Papalii are 23, while Vaughan is 24.

Lima's knowledge of what's required at the top level is essential to the youngsters reaching their potential.

"What he does outside the game has been as instrumental for a lot of the younger players," Stuart said.

"He's been involved in a winning culture at Melbourne.

"I need players who have that background and it rubs off on the players not so much in what they're saying, but how they do it."

IMPACT FORWARD

Jeff Lima's stats in the first two rounds

Round 1 v Penrith: 26 minutes. 13 runs. 105m. 10 tackles.

Round 2 v Roosters: 44 minutes. 16 runs. 145m. 30 tackles.