Illawarra connection among new talent
Brock Corfe (Twitter: @Brock_Corfe
Wed 2nd December, 01:30PM
Thomas Bartley at Wests Tigers training
A successful contingent from the Illawarra competition are among a host of new faces in Wests Tigers’ Holden Cup squad for the 2016 season.
While the majority of players come through the Balmain and Western Suburbs pathways into Holden Cup, the Club has recruited a premiership-winning combination from the Illawarra district for the new season.
Thomas Bartley, Samuel DeFiddes and Paul Roberts were part of the Collegians Under 19s side who recorded a 28-22 victory in the Illawarra Under 19s Grand Final over Corrimal last September.
The trio joined Wests Tigers’ pre-season training last month, with each of them having a significant impact for ‘Collies’ in the decider at WIN Stadium.
Bartley was captained the Collegians side, with the five-eighth playing his junior football at the Wollongong-based club and winning a second premiership later that day – backing-up for Reserve Grade.
DeFiddes is primarily a centre who joined the Illawarra competition in 2015, playing his junior football with the Joondalup Giants in Western Australia, and was awarded man-of-the-match in the Grand Final after notching-up two tries.
Roberts is a utility player who can cover a range of positions including hooker, halfback and fullback – the Dapto junior also impressed with a try of his own - with many who watched the game rating him a close second to DeFiddes for man-of-the-match honours.
Samuel DeFiddes was man-of-the-match in the Illawarra Colts Grand Final.
All three players are expected to push for a place in the Wests Tigers’ NYC side for 2016, with a number of regular players from last season now advancing through to the senior grades.
For 19-year-old Bartley, having the ‘Collies connection’ has made his transition to Wests Tigers less daunting.
“We all travel up together in a car-pool to training,” Bartley said. “We take turns driving and paying for petrol – it’s really helpful not having to drive up in the afternoons by yourself to training.
“We all live pretty close to each other down in the Illawarra district and obviously know each other well from Collies.
“I think after winning that competition down there it will really help with combinations up here at Wests Tigers – it’s great to have them here with me.”
The playing squad isn’t the only change in the Holden Cup ranks, with a new-look coaching staff coming on board including Head Coach Willie Peters and Assistant Chris Hutchinson.
Bartley praised the new coaching staff and existing players who have made the new members of the squad feel at home.
“Both Willie and Hutch have been really good and super-welcoming,” Bartley said. “They have been pulling me aside and giving me little tips to help my game.
“They always make time for everyone, getting around and making sure everyone feels welcome, which has made it a really good environment to be around.”
The opposing Corrimal side in the Under 19s Grand Final featured another Wests Tigers recruit in centre Jai Doolan.
Doolan played SG Ball for St George last season, scoring four tries against Wests Magpies in the opening round of the competition and going on to have a consistent season.
Despite a number of players moving up through to the senior grades, Wests Tigers Holden Cup will still have a number of stars from last season available for selection including JJ Felise, Junior Tatola, Pio Sokobalava, Jacob Liddle, Obed Karwhin and Esan Marsters.
It’s shaping up to be another exciting season for the Club’s NYC side, who have made the finals series for the past five consecutive seasons.