IT HAS been hailed as one of the Ipswich Jets most significant signings in their history.
In a major coup for the club and Intrust Super Cup competition, former NRL star and 2008 World Cup winner David Fa’alogo is set to join the Jets for the 2016 season.
Fa’alogo played 198 NRL games for the Rabbitohs and Knights and 57 matches for Huddersfield in a career which also saw him play 19 Tests for New Zealand and Samoa.
The 35-year-old forward is set to move to Ipswich in the next month and settle in the city with his family.
Jets chairman Steve Johnson said his experience would be crucial to a side that has lost two of its key veterans.
“With the forced retirement of Keiron Lander and Chris Walker through injury, David coming to our club could be one of the most significant signings in the Jets’ history,” he said.
“The influence of Chris and Keiron in the success of our club last year can’t be understated because their calmness and experience was the reason why the young Jets could play the way they did.
“David’s presence will go a long way towards replacing the leadership they provided.
“Age is not a barrier to him. In 2014 he was international player of the year for Samoa, a side that was glittering with stars.”
The Jets have lost key forwards Billy McConnachie and Rod Griffin to Wests Tigers so Fa’alogo’s grunt in the middle will be a valuable asset.
Wayne Bennett, Fa’alogo’s former coach at the Knights and with the Kiwis at the 2008 World Cup, recommended him to Jets co-coach Shane Walker.
“Wayne never forgets players that win him big games and he was quick to point out that it was a Dave Fa’alogo offload around the back of one of the Australian players… that led to a crucial try in the World Cup final,” Walker said.
“He is no stranger to big occasions and big games and that experience won’t be lost on our group.
“Dave spent some time up here over the break and fell in love with the area.
“He was looking to make the move and spoke to Wayne about it.
“Dave is in a transitional stage of moving from being a professional footballer into the workforce.
“I think that transition is a lot easier when you are also able to do what is so familiar in terms of playing the game you love.”
Walker said Fa’alogo’s strength, footwork and ball skills would all be major assets to the Jets.
Walker was playing at the Rabbitohs when Fa’alogo first joined the club as a young man and saw first hand his dedication and professionalism.
“Early on he wasn’t the fittest player going around, but he just really knuckled down and dedicated himself to hard training and a good diet.
“His wife was calling the dietician to get the OK on every meal and Dave came back a transformed player.
“I remember he wasn’t the greatest swimmer at our recovery sessions, so he went and got swimming lessons.
“There is no job too big or too small that he won’t take on to better himself as a player and a person.”
Fa’alogo retired from the NRL last year because of a neck complaint but Walker said it was no impediment.
“Like most old footballers he had a bit of bone growth that was pushing on a nerve,” he said.
“He had that cleaned up and is as good as gold now.
“He will have to spend some time doing training before we inject him into the team. Like the rest of the players, he will have to earn his stripes.
“But being a professional as long as he was he will bring great stability and confidence to our club.”