Albury Thunder's star recruit of last year Etu Uaisele to play on in Group Nine

Blockbusting Albury Thunder back Etu Uaisele has put off retirement plans after a disappointing first year in Group 9.
Blockbusting Albury Thunder back Etu Uaisele has put off retirement plans after a disappointing first year in Group 9.

Albury Thunder’s star recruit of last year has shelved retirement plans to repay the club after a disappointing year.

Former Tongan representative Etu Uaisele is one of the few players to boast first grade NRL experience on the Border in the past decade, after 30 games with Parramatta and Penrith.

But the powerhouse back struggled to make an impact as the Thunder failed to make finals, with coach Tuki Jackson sacked mid-season.

“I wasn’t going to play again,” Uaisele said.

“To be honest, it (my form) was up and down, it was an unsettled season (with the coaching issue).

“I was very disappointed, there were a few games where I thought I played alright.

“It was my first year playing footy in the country, so now that I know what to expect, I’ll be better prepared for this season.”

The 33-year old adding he owes the club.

“Yeah, I think so, that’s why I wanted to play again,” he said.

“The club has been really good to our family.

“If I can get the club up again and develop the young kids coming through, I’ll be happy with that.”

Uaisele’s attitude will delight first-year coach Adrian Purtell, who played alongside the centre or winger at English club, Bradford Bulls.

It’s been a mixed off-season for the club, losing boom forwards Dave Cowhan (Central Queensland Capras) and Levi Freeman (retirement).

The Thunder has signed 118-kilogram Bombala prop Adam Rodwell, lightning quick Riverina winger Keanau Wighton and former Bradford Bulls’ Academy prop Brad Hill, along with Purtell.

Purtell is the only player in Border history to play NRL.

The tall back played 110 games at Canberra and Penrith, before starting a six-year stint overseas.

His arrival home has the club buzzing, but it will take a mighty effort to unseat dual grand finalists Southcity and Gundagai.

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