IVAN Cleary has orchestrated the biggest cleanout in Wests Tigers history in recent months – and he’s not finished yet.
Since taking the reins in early April, Cleary has signed a remarkable 11 players, while six have either moved on or will at season’s end.
I’m hearing Cleary is still planning plenty of more changes for the last-placed Tigers, with 10 players off contract including experienced campaigners Matt Ballin, Joel Edwards, Tim Grant, Justin Hunt, Jamal Idris, Jack Littlejohn, Kyle Lovett, Matt McIlwrick and Kevin Naiqama.
At least half these players also won’t get new deals, with the Tigers looking to sweep a broom through their under-performing ranks.
Rugby union convert Curtis Rona is one player in the Tigers’ sights, while versatile Rooster Connor Watson is another.
Fifita to remain a Shark
Cronulla will begin talks to extend big Andrew Fifita’s contract in October.
Fifita – who was at odds with the Sharks at times over the last couple of years – is now happy and settled at the club.
He is signed until the end of 2018 but wants to play out his career at the Sharks.
Arguably the best front-rower in the game at the moment, Fifita has his life back in order and was instrumental in the Sharks’ premiership victory last season.
“Life is good for Andrew right now and he is keen to lock this new deal away as soon as the season is over,” Fifita’s manager Greg Willett told me.
Next generation to star for Kumuls
The son of Roosters great Adrian Lam is in line to play in this year’s World Cup for Papua New Guinea.
Lachlan Lam, 19, has been a standout for the Roosters in the Holden Cup this season and is pushing for inclusion in the Kumuls squad.
Dad Adrian was a legend in PNG, playing 11 Tests for the Kumuls and also coaching the country for 6 years.
The Kumuls have a couple of useful halves in brothers Ase and Watson Boas, who play alongside each other every week for the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup.
But Lam, who is off contract and attracting offers from rival NRL clubs, is likely to be named in the extended PNG squad for the end of year tournament.
Raiders sign young star
The Raiders have signed Papua New Guinea flyer Kato Ottio to a new two-year deal – despite the fact he has yet to play an NRL game.
The speedster scored an amazing 29 tries for Raiders feeder team Mounties in the NSW Cup last season – before ripping his ACL and missing the team’s premiership win.
The 23-year-old – who has represented PNG in volleyball and is an amazing athlete – made his comeback after a long rehab recently and has done enough to earn a new contract.
With Edrick Lee moving to Cronulla mid-season, Ottio could get his chance in Ricky Stuart’s top side before the year is out.
More drugs drama for the game
One of the NRL’s leading off contract players got into some strife involving cocaine recently – and his club had to pay off someone threatening to take camera phone footage to the media.
But the club had the last laugh over the renowned bad boy, cutting the amount they had to pay to sweep the incident under the carpet from his upcoming contract.
The player isn’t happy – but has had to cop it sweet.