Meet the mystery man who could hold the key to Wests Tigers’ future
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JANUARY 31 2017 - 10:00PM
This is the mystery man who could hold the key to Wests Tigers retaining their off-contract superstars.
Joe Wehbe is known in league circles as the “football whisperer”, a secret mentor to a host of Tigers topliners including Aaron Woods, James Tedesco and Mitchell Moses. In a bid to retain them and fellow free agent Luke Brooks, the Tigers have opened negotiations with Wehbe about a potential role at the joint-venture outfit.
While he works with some of the biggest names in the game across a number of clubs, he is no attention seeker. Described as a “touch footy guru”, Wehbe has been at pains to keep his association with players confidential, but has quickly emerged as one of rugby league’s most intriguing characters. He is the father of The X Factor contestant Carla Wehbe, who made such an impression during her 2013 audition that judge Redfoo cooed, “You have what it takes to make the world happy”.
The property developer is close friends with Stephen Kearney and their association has spanned club and country. Wehbe was on staff during Kearney’s stint as New Zealand coach, operating under the title “peak performance coach”. Kearney, a former assistant to Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane, also invited Wehbe for a series of Broncos training sessions. His stint at Red Hill – at which he reportedly gave playmakers advice which included “trust the ball” – coincided with a three-match winning streak.
Wehbe is believed to be close to influential manager Isaac Moses, who recently added Tedesco to a stable that includes fellow Tigers Woods, Brooks and Moses. Interestingly, some of the manager’s high-profile clients either follow Carla Wehbe on Twitter or have promoted her work on social media.
Talks between Wehbe and the Tigers are only at a preliminary stage, but a source said, “The players love him, they would be more likely to stay at the club if he’s there”.
Woods and Tedesco have credited a confidant for helping them take the next step in their careers. While neither would mention him by name, it’s understood they were referring to Wehbe.
“There is someone else I talk to, he doesn’t want his name mentioned,” Tedesco told Fairfax Media last April.
"I’ve been seeing him since last year and I talk pretty much every week. He’s a sports psych guy who speaks to a few of the boys and players from other teams.
"I speak to him about my game and about life, he’s been heaps good for me professionally.
"Woodsey mentioned it to me, him and a few other boys see him. Woodsey saw him and started playing for NSW and Australia, that sort of stuff.
“The main thing he talks to us about is playing footy and not putting too much stress on your mind about your game. When you come into first grade you think too much, about expectations, and stress yourself out. He goes back to you playing your natural game, just playing footy,” Tedesco said.
“That’s a big thing for me, when you think too much about what you should do, that’s when you’re in your head and not playing what’s in front of you. He’s been awesome.”
The Tigers face a huge challenge to retain their star quartet. It’s believed their preference is to remain together, although Jason Taylor is also off contract and it’s likely a decision will be delayed until there is more clarity about the coach’s future.
The joint-venture outfit is moving to secure other off-contract talent, locking in Mosese Suli on a three-year extension worth $1.3 million. It is the biggest contract ever signed by a player yet to make his NRL debut.