Jesse Royal ready to resume NRL career as Warriors come calling
BY BRETT KEEBLE
16/02/2009 4:00:00 AM
FORMER Newcastle Knights prop Jesse Royal has agreed to terms with the New Zealand Warriors for the next two years as a replacement for Sonny Fai, who drowned off Auckland's Bethells Beach early last month.Royal, 28, had signed to play for Kurri Kurri in the Newcastle Rugby League competition this season and had been training with the Bulldogs up until the end of last week.
As part of that deal, he had been working in the mines for Ashton Coal.
But The Herald learned yesterday that the Waikato-born former New Zealand Army cook had agreed to resume his National Rugby League career in his homeland and was expected to officially join the Warriors by the end of this week.
It is understood Royal flew to Auckland last week to meet with New Zealand club officials.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah could not be contacted for comment last night but it was "a done deal", according to a Warriors source, as the Auckland-based club was keen to bolster its depth in the pack after the tragic loss of Fai.
Neither Royal nor his manager, Darryl Mather, could be contacted last night for comment.
But Royal's imminent move to the Warriors was a talking-point at the Knights' trials against Newcastle clubs Central Charlestown, Maitland and South Newcastle at St John Oval on Saturday night, and was confirmed by several Knights sources last night.
Kurri Kurri coach Shaun Collingwood said he was aware the Warriors were chasing Royal but, as far as he knew, the ball-playing front-rower would be playing for the Bulldogs this season alongside former Knights teammates Luke Quigley and Reegan Tanner.
"They [the Warriors] have been chasing him but he hasn't gone anywhere, no," Collingwood said.
"Nah, he hasn't [signed] mate . . . They're all at training. We had 48 at training on Friday night and Jesse, Reegan, Quigley, they're all there."
Royal joined the Knights from Penrith in 2005 and spent two seasons in the lower grades before making his first-grade debut in 2007.
He played 10 NRL games that season and another 19 last year but the Knights did not offer him a new contract for this year.
The Warriors had pursued Royal towards the end of last season when the Knights gave him permission to find a new club, but in September he decided to stay in Newcastle and play for Kurri Kurri so he would not have to relocate his family.
He told The Herald at the time that his wife, Kylie, was working for EnergyAustralia and their young sons Matarae and Tumai were settled in day care.
Tough decision for him, hope the Warriors aren't being too cheap and giving him the NRL minimum 60K. He'd need to be on 100K to make it worth his while.