Former Rabbitoh and Shark Brett Kearney signs up with Collegians
ormer Rabbitohs and Sharks fullback Brett Kearney will add his name to a growing list of ex-NRL talent in the Illawarra Coal League after linking with Collegians for the 2015 season.
Kearney has spent the past five years with Bradford in the UK Super League - where he notched 112 games - but previously played 77 NRL games in six seasons with Souths (28 games) and Cronulla. He also played fullback for Country in 2008.
With 181 top-flight games to his credit and the ability to play at fullback or in the halves, Collies coach Reece Simmonds said the 31-year-old will add valuable experience to the Dogs' roster.
"He'll be a good pick up," Simmonds said.
"'He's been playing for Bradford for the past four years and he was at Souths and Cronulla before that, so he'll add that experience to us that we lacked last year in some tight games.
"He can play a bit of fullback or even in the halves if we need him to, so we'll just have to see where he fits best for us."
Simmonds admits the 2014 season was the toughest of his coaching career with a number of the club's 2013 grand final heroes playing only sparingly in the Coal League due to call-ups to the Illawarra Cutters. Several of his other stars also battled injury and rep commitments with Illawarra and Country.
"It was a tough year," Simmonds said.
"You think at the start of the year you're going to have a certain amount of players and, through the Dragons poor player retention in letting four halfbacks go, it started to hurt us," Simmonds said.
"We toughed it out to the end but we just didn't have the right players in key positions, which hurt us. I've taken a little bit of a different approach this year in who I've brought to the club and hopefully it works for us. "
Five-eighth Sam Duggan has linked with Mounties in the NSW Cup after spending most of 2014 with the Cutters while prop Jarrod Hickey has also moved on. Simmonds has retained the services of star centre pairing Alipate Noilea and Junior Teleni while Country reps Jarrod Thompson and Blake Williamson as well as veteran hooker Jimmy Storer have all returned. Simmonds plans to put a host of young players around them.
"We're looking like more of a younger roster with a few guys who really want to play for Collies and are looking to hang around the club long-term," Simmonds said.
This article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 13/2/2015