Transfer Lounge: Mortimer ‘will have to wait’

New Rooster Daniel Mortimer may struggle for opportunities at Bondi despite his much-heralded signing last week, according to Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander.

Alexander isn’t convinced tri-colours coach Brian Smith will hand up the No.6 jersey vacated by Todd Carney’s exit to the 22-year-old former Eel, adamant captain Braith Anasta will get the nod – at least initially – outside New South Wales halfback Mitchell Pearce as the Roosters look to resurrect their premiership aspirations after a miserable 2011.

“I can’t see him forcing his way in,” Alexander told NRL.com today. “If they struggle a bit you will see him get a go, but if the Roosters go well and Braith Anasta is playing well outside Mitchell Pearce, and Pearce and Anasta are combining well, he [Mortimer] will do it tough to get a start.

“It is only if Braith struggles at No.6… he will be waiting, hoping that Braith doesn’t really fire.”

Alexander said Mortimer still had to prove his claims to a regular first grade spot.

“For mine, he has got a lot to improve on,’ Alexander said. “In that run of nine wins for the Eels [in 2009] and everyone jumping up and down and getting excited, I still had massive question marks.

“He is a support player, not a ball player – and the Eels tried to turn him into one. It just looked uncomfortable for him.

“It didn’t work – he is not a natural go-to-the-line type of player. He is gutsy, but his strength is backing up.

“I can’t see him forcing his way in – but that’s what they’ve got.”

The Roosters are also crowing after beating interest from other NRL clubs and also top-level rugby union for talented New Zealand schoolboys rugby representative Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who will be groomed for a position in the outside backs, most likely as a replacement for fullback Anthony Minichiello when he finishes his career at the Roosters.  

Mortimer and Tuivasa-Sheck’s signings came during a bullish period of transfers last week, highlighted by the announcement 2010 Dally M Medalist Carney would join Cronulla on a ‘lifeline’ two-year deal.

Other significant player movements included Adam Cuthbertson following coach Wayne Bennett from the Dragons to Newcastle, with the Knights the 26-year-old’s fourth club in as many years after stints with the Sea Eagles, Sharks and St George Illawarra.

Cuthbertson languished in the NSW Cup at Cronulla in 2010, but his fortunes rebounded this year and he finished the season providing good impact off the interchange bench as the Dragons pushed into the finals.

Alexander says Bennett had been able to transform the enigmatic front-rower into something he wasn’t previously.

“He has a very dangerous offload, but [at Cronulla] Ricky Stuart wanted to try to turn him into something else… and I think Bennett probably did turn him into something else,” Alexander said. “Even though it’s good to watch, he thought he needed to offload every time he took the ball up. But he’s ended up knuckling down and making more metres and being more selective.”

Alexander said the Knights’ pack looked to have plenty of sting to it in 2012.

“There is no doubt they’ll leave their mark – with Danny Buderus, Kade Snowden and Cuthbertson joining Neville Costigan and Chris Houston.”

Other player movement last week saw ex-Test prop Jason Ryles released from the final year of his deal at the Roosters to link with Craig Bellamy at the Storm. Ryles, 32, will bolster a Melbourne pack already strengthened by former club favourite Ryan Hoffman’s return after a salary-cap enforced stint in the English Super League. He’ll also help to fill the void left by the retirements of Adam Woolnough and Troy Thompson.

“He [Ryles] went okay with the Roosters… it’s not the biggest signing in the world, but he will be able to do the job for them and he will certainly be able to cover what the departing front-rowers offered,” Alexander said.

“And Hoffman – he is a good back-rower and he knows what [Cooper] Cronk and [Billy] Slater and [Cameron] Smith are about so that’s a good signing for them with the players that have moved on – with Adam Blair going, Hoffman’s not a bad replacement.”

In a bombshell, Alexander believes St George Illawarra management should “stick to their guns” and pursue their claim to Wests Tigers fullback Tim Moltzen.

‘If legally they are within their rights, that’s what I’d do,” he said.

“And him [Moltzen] sitting out the season? That’s rubbish – I’d make him play. He wouldn’t care. He’d get over it in a month… after a month of training with a group of blokes he’d be alright – if that was his only option.”

Click here to view all the confirmed player transfers for 2012