Still just 25 years of age, the Tigers represent McIlwrick’s fourth NRL club after previous stints with the Raiders, Roosters and Sharks in 2016.Although he featured in just two games for Cronulla in their historic season he was part of the training sessions that carried them all the way and believes there are similarities in what he has seen in his first couple of months at the Tigers.”It was good to be part of the premiership-winning side, I got a couple of games in last year and I guess now what I can say is that I know what it takes to win a premiership,” McIlwrick told Tigers TV.”I saw the training all the boys put in day in and day out and especially the unity that the Sharks had last year and I feel a very similar thing here at the Tigers.”All the boys are very tight and I see good things for the future of this club. The energy that the young blokes bring to training every day is second to none and that’s what you need in a footy side.”We’ve got a good mix of young blokes and a few older heads so it’s a pretty exciting time, especially for those younger guys in those senior roles.”There are good things going forward and hopefully we can win a premiership next year.”The departure of club stalwart Robbie Farah opens the door for a new No.9 to make their name at the Wests Tigers with McIlwrick wedged in between veteran Matt Ballin and outstanding prospect Jacob Liddle who made his NRL debut in Round 18 this year.With the established halves pairing of Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses and the brilliant James Tedesco at fullback, McIlwrick admitted that slotting straight into the Tigers spine requires plenty of extra homework.”Obviously coming to a new club you’ve got to learn a fair bit, different plays and different names for things but those boys have been great for me,” McIlwrick said.”They’re young and enthusiastic and already you’ve got one of the best halves and fullback combination in the game so exciting times ahead.”With 29 NRL games across five seasons at four different clubs, McIlwrick admits that 2017 shapes as a critical one in his career and that he is eager to turn his one-year deal at the Tigers into a more long-term association.”It’s a pretty big year for me. I’ve been at a few clubs now and I don’t really want to be going anywhere else,” he said.”It’s a massive year for me in terms of opportunity. If I do get an opportunity to play I’ve got to take it with both hands.”
Luke Brooks is set to make his first ever NRL Auckland Nines appearance, with the tournament set to take place on February 4 and 5 at Eden Park.As well as Brooks, Head Coach Jason Taylor has named experienced forwards Elijah Taylor, Joel Edwards, Ava Seumanufagai and Sauaso Sue to bolster the side.Taylor will captain the side at Eden Park, with Sue to feature as vice-captain.A host of exciting rookies will also make the trip over to Auckland, with Matt Eisenhuth, Watson Heleta, Esan Marsters and Bayley Sironen looking to impress as they strive for an NRL debut in 2017.New recruit Matt McIlwrick will pull on the Wests Tigers jersey for the first time, with the dummy-half joining the Club from the Cronulla Sharks.The 18-man squad features a number players familiar with the nine-a-side concept, with Justin Hunt, Kevin Naiqama, Jack Littlejohn, Kyle Lovett, Michael Chee Kam, Heleta, Seumanufagai and Sue all playing in last year’s tournament with Wests Tigers.Both Chee Kam and Naiqama have featured in all three previous NRL Auckland Nines tournaments.Wests Tigers have been drawn in the Rangitoto Pool and will come up against the Newcastle Knights, Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm.WESTS TIGERS 2017 AUCKLAND NINES SQUADJosh AloiaiLuke BrooksMichael Chee KamJoel EdwardsMatt EisenhuthJJ FeliseWatson HeletaJustin HuntJack LittlejohnKyle LovettEsan MarstersMatt McIlwrickKevin NaiqamaJordan RankinAva SeumanufagaiBayley SironenSauaso SueElijah Taylor
The nine are: Vagi Guba, Jason Kila, Hiri Hiri, Kabua Vagi Morea, Alei Nao, Riley Hekure, Pipi Raho, Kipling Doriga and Damian Ravu.The rest of the EAP side comprises of four players from Vanuatu and one Makoto Taniyama from Japan.The championships will be held in Mount Gambier in South Australia and will run from January 3 to 11.Six teams will take part: Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the ICC East Asia Pacific side.
The Games will be hosted in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa. The Prime Minister of Tonga, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva met the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a bilateral meeting between the two countries on Monday January 18, 2015.A statement issued by Tonga prime minister’s office says: “The main purpose of the (Tonga’s) Prime Minister’s visit to PNG is to further strengthen the economic and social cooperation between the two countries in the sports arena.“As the nation who has most recently hosted the Pacific Games, PNG has indeed set the benchmark at the highest standard – an esteemed position that the Government of Tonga aspires to meet.“The Government of PNG has committed to assist Tonga with the reconstruction of Teufaiva Stadium for track and field events. Additionally, PNG will also assist Tonga with its High Performance Centre where elite sportsmanship will be prepared to represent Tonga in the Pacific Games and other international sporting events.“Notwithstanding the challenges presented with the planning and preparation for an event of such magnitude, the Government of Tonga remains committed to hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.”In the bilateral dialogue, the topics of West Papua, Climate Change, Pacific Regional Cooperation, and strengthening diplomatic ties were discussed.“The Prime Minister of PNG has accepted the Prime Minister of Tonga’s invitation for a delegation from Papua New Guinea led by the Minister for Sports and Tourism, Justin Tkatchenko MP, to visit Tonga at the earliest opportunity to share their experiences of planning and preparing of a Pacific Games, and to continue dialogue and mutual cooperation,” the statement stated.
Martin Gabor, National Correspondent The Wests Tigers have survived a monumental comeback to see off the Warriors 34-26 at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.The loss condemned the visitors to their seventh straight opening-round loss, with the defeat further soured by a potential dislocated kneecap to Ben Henry in what was his first game back from a season-ending ACL injury.Mitch Moses produced his best performance in first grade, playing a hand in three of his side’s six tries and controlling the match like a seasoned veteran in the absence of regular halves partner Luke Brooks. The Tigers settled the better after a comedy of errors to start the game with Moses finding a hard-running Curtis Sironen to score Wests’ first points of the season. The hosts had sprung a surprise before kickoff, bringing Kyle Lovett into the starting side for Manaia Cherrington, with Jack Littlejohn shifting to dummy-half. Jason Taylor’s gamble paid dividends with Lovett scoring the game’s second try from a magical Chris Lawrence offload. Moses was at it again minutes later finding an unmarked David Nofoaluma to cross for the side’s third in the opening quarter of the game. The winger then almost turned provider, finding space down the right before kicking back in field for Kevin Naiqama to dot down, only for the men in the Bunker to find a little knock on from Lovett in the lead-up. The Warriors took full advantage of the let-off, scoring through left centre Solomone Kata after Nofoaluma put down a relatively simple Shaun Johnson kick. An entertaining first half took on new meaning just before the half-hour mark, with the Tigers putting in an early candidate for try of the year. It started with a Moses banana kick to Tedesco, with the fullback offloading to big Tim Grant who did brilliantly to pick up the bouncing ball, before quick hands found Naiqama on the right, who grubbered back infield for Tedesco to gather and score. The Warriors would have been happy to go into half-time down 22-4, but they wouldn’t be so lucky with the Tigers scoring the second best try of the season so far a minute before the break. A shift from five metres out ended up with Naiqama, who drew in three defenders before linking up with fellow centre Tim Simona who torched Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to cap off the Tigers’ best ever opening 40 minutes at the venue. Whatever Andrew McFadden said at half-time took a little bit of time to sink in with a Manu Vatuvei error almost leading to what should have been an easy four pointer. But led by Shaun Johnson, the Warriors came to life after that, scoring three tries in eight minutes to narrow the margin to just two points with 13 minutes to play.The mercurial playmaker set up the first try of the second stanza, hitting former skipper Simon Mannering with a flat ball close to the line.The Warriors looked destined to score again with Tuivasa-Sheck making a surging run down field, only for Simona to reel in the new NZ fullback.One play later they did find the line, with interchange forward Bodene Thompson exploiting a huge overlap to cross out wide. The Campbelltown faithful must have been nervous with the visitors scoring two more tries in the space of two minutes to draw themselves within a conversion. Johnson scored the first, stepping his way through some tiring defenders to cross under the sticks, before an expansive shift from their own half finished with Kata touching down for his second of the night. Johnson tried desperately to snatch the unlikeliest of victories at the death, but a desperate chip and chase went horribly wrong as James Tedesco raced 50 metres to seal the heart-stopping win.The Warriors will head into next week wondering what could have been, while the Tigers will be aiming to make it two wins on the trot when they take on Manly at Leichhardt Oval in Monday night footy.