Wagga Kangaroos have lit the fuse on what they hope will be an explosive 2018 with the signing of a New Zealand Residents representative forward for this season.
Dana Ratu, 28, will move to Wagga with his family next month ahead of the new Group Nine season.
Doubling down on the recruitment of the well-credentialled Ratu, Roos have also locked in Warren Lloyd’s return from Cootamundra.
Coach Ben Jeffery was tickled pink at the news as Roos tackled their first pre-season training session of the new year.
“He (Ratu) comes highly recommended out of New Zealand,” Jeffery said.
“He’s played New Zealand Residents and he can play front row or backrow. He’ll add a bit more size.
“And big Lloydy has recommitted which is good news… he didn’t have the best year last year so he’s definitely looking forward to a good season.”
Jeffery hasn’t ruled out more signings before the season kicks off.
But Ratu is a big step in the right direction. He played for Taniwharau, which won the Waikato club competition, and then represented Waikato in the NZ national competition, in which they made the grand final.
Ratu’s form earned him selection in the NZ Residents side in October, while in 2016 he represented NZ Maori and he looms as an exciting addition.
“It’ll give our guys some go forward and that’s what we lacked last year,” Jeffery said.
“We’d get momentum but we weren’t a real big team and we’d lose it again after five minutes.
“I’m hoping in games we’ll be able to get our momentum, and keep it.”
YouTube highlights of Ratu show a hard-running forward, at home in the front or second row, who can also produce a handy step.
The announcements of some forward firepower are timely for Roos, but Jeffery said their loss of Clifford Morris (to Brothers) will leave a hole – and plenty of work.
“He’s a big loss for us,” Jeffery said. “He was our main go-forward last year. We were disappointed to lose him, but that’s footy isn’t it? We’ll have to regroup and someone else will have to step up and do the work he used to do for us.”
Kangaroos resumed pre-season training in the heat at Parramore Park on Thursday evening.
Despite the holiday season, close to 30 players were in attendance.
Jeffery has been pleased with his players keen to put in some hard yards for more than a month leading up to Christmas.
“We had guys wanting to put in a bit extra and now we’re hoping to have a good six or seven weeks til the West Wyalong Knockout,” Jeffery said.
“We want to put our heads down til then.”
Kangaroos finished fifth last year but crashed out at the hands of Tumut in the first week of finals.