Wests Tigers recruit Matt McIlwrick ready to kickstart NRL career at fourth club in four years
JANUARY 14, 20176:21PM
The Sunday Telegraph
MANY NRL stars live on million-dollar contracts and rake in big bucks off endorsements but a lot more players face the reality of life as a fringe first-grader.
Matt McIlwrick is at his fourth club in as many years. One-year contracts have led to him shifting base more than he had planned.
At 25, he is in the midst of another one-year deal after joining the Tigers at a time when some of his off-contract teammates including Aaron Woods, James Tedesco, Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses mull over lucrative offers.
McIlwrick featured in 19 games in three years at the Raiders before playing eight matches at the Roosters and two as part of Cronulla’s premiership-winning squad last year.
“It is tough,” McIlwrick said. “Signing one-year deals, the instability hurts your family. My fiancee has been amazing throughout the whole thing.
“She has sacrificed a fair bit to help me out. Hopefully I can repay her one day. I had nearly eight years in Canberra and last three years I’ve been switching around.
“It is pretty hard when you have to meet new people and learn new plays. At the end of the day rugby league is a pretty good community sport. Everyone is welcoming. The frustrating thing is trying to find somewhere to settle down.
“There are a lot of other players who are awesome players that get looked over and fall out the back door and never come back. I’m thankful for the opportunity the Tigers have given me.”
The switch has also saved McIlwrick a two-hour return trip to the Sutherland Shire, living a stone throw’s away from his new club’s Concord training base.
“It was great being part of the Sharks,” McIlwrick said. “Being part of a premiership-winning side you learn a fair bit about what it takes to win a premiership. The camaraderie of the boys and the way they trained. I’ll take a lot out of that.”
McIlwrick is a genuine chance of earning a regular NRL spot at the Tigers. The high-profile exit of club stalwart Robbie Farah leaves the side searching for a hooker.
He will compete with rookie Jacob Liddle and veteran Matt Ballin for a starting spot. Tigers coach Jason Taylor’s propensity to play two hookers in his match-day squad puts McIlwrick in the frame.
Ballin is racing the clock to be fit for the round one clash against Farah’s Rabbitohs as he continues his recovery from a knee injury. The one-time Maroons hooker has resumed ball work but is yet to do contact training.