Rugby League


Wests Tigers recruit Joel Edwards says the cap fits for a big season

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Wests Tigers recruit Joel Edwards admits - without any hint of embarrassment - one of his most-treasured childhood possessions is a Jason Taylor-autographed North Sydney Bears cap - but don't expect him to wear it at training to impress his new coach.

Edwards, a hulking forward whose 2015 was frustrated by the toe injury he suffered while playing in the Auckland Nines, followed the now defunct Bears and was captivated by Taylor's performances in the old red and black battle colours.

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He recalled the day his grandfather managed to get a friend of a friend to ask one of his childhood heroes to sign the cap.

"Most of my stuff is in storage from the move but I'm sure Mum has kept it safe for me,"  Edwards said. "My pop got the hat signed for me because I was such a massive fan of Jason Taylor. I admired how he read the game and how he played the game. 

"I also loved Andrew Johns' creativity - his game awareness - and both of them played their part in me wanting to become an NRL player. [Johns] was an inspiration because I'm from Cessnock, he's from there and he played for Newcastle ... I guess that helped me think that, like him, maybe I could do it if I worked hard and in 2010 I was lucky enough to fulfil my dream."

When the Raiders boosted their back row stocks of Kangaroos forward Josh Papalii and  Sia Soliola with English international Elliott Whitehead, Edwards - who has played with the Newcastle Knights and Canberra - requested a release from the remaining two years of his Raiders deal to join a young Tigers squad.


At 27, Edwards will be expected to help plug the holes left in Taylor's young squad following the departures of hardheads Martin Taupau to Manly and Keith Galloway to Leeds in the English Super League.

"Everyone's worked hard; we have a common goal to be the best team we can and there's been a great feel throughout the pre-season," he said.

"I'm treating [the responsibility of filling the voids] as a great opportunity, a chance to bounce back from the injury and I put in each day and work to become the best player I can be.

"To do that means working hard on your diet, working hard physically and there's also mental preparation ... you need to have everything so finely-tuned and working in the one direction."

When asked to sum up his career after playing 45 games for the Knights and 43 for Canberra, Edwards simply said he is fulfilling his dream.

"It was my childhood dream to play NRL, it's what I've wanted since I was seven years old," he said. "It's been a journey and I remember there's been a lot of people who've helped me to get to where I am today.

"As a professional athlete I believe you have to keep moving forward. I think it's important that a professional athlete keeps improving, and that's what I'm working on doing at the Wests Tigers."