Cessnock will arguably boast one of the most lethal attacking strike forces in the competition this season with former Country Player of the Year Riley Brown re-joining the Goannas.
Brown, who hadstints with South Newcastle, Central and Denman after last playing for Cessnock in 2014,is set to return to play halfback and partner controversial new recruit Paul Carter in the halves withformer KnightChanel Mata’utia outside them in the centres.
The three players have made 129 NRL appearances between them with new captain coach Al Lantry confident their class and experience will be a telling factor for the club in 2018.
“I grew up with Riley and we’ve been mates for a long time now,”Lantry said.
“I asked him when I first got the coaching job about playing with us and he told me then he didn’t want to even think about footy for a few months.
“But he is on board now which is great for us. We have plenty of pace out wide and he’ll steer us around and with Paul in the halves with him and Chanel, ourattack’s looking really good.”
In a further boost, former Knights NSW Cup prop Adam Withyman has also linked with the club.
Carter’s signing by the Goannas has caused plenty of conjecture because of his chequered off-field past.
The son of former Penrith star Steve Carter, the 25-year-oldhas been sacked by three NRL clubs -Gold Coast, South Sydney and Sydney Roosters -because of off-fieldmisdemeanors.
Early last month, he escaped a jail sentence after being handed a two year good behaviour bond by a magistrate followinga supply cocaine charge.
Carter still has some hoops to jump through before he is cleared to take the field with the Goannas.
He is currently a deregistered player and will need to be given the green light by the NSW Rugby League to resume his career.
Newcastle RL CEO Matt Harris revealed on Friday a submission from the Cessnock club to have Carter registered will be discussed at a meeting of the NSWRL on Wednesday.
“They will be our governing body so that is something they will be looking at,”Harris said.
“We’ll be guided by them on it, just as we would have been guided by the Country Rugby League if we were still affiliated with them.”
Harris did not want to speculate on Carter’s chances of being cleared.
“Purely from a football point of view, he is obviously going to be an asset for ourcompetition,”he said.
“But other factors have to be taken into consideration which the Cessnock club have been addressing.”
Returning: Playmaker Riley Brown playing for Cessnock in 2014. Brown is set to re-join the Goannas this season. Picture: Jonathan Carroll