New Raider 'hits like Papalii, runs like Soliola'
Former Catalans teammate Zeb Taia has predicted that Raiders recruit Elliott Whitehead will take the NRL by storm in 2016, saying that he has all the attributes necessary to make an immediate impact in Canberra.
Whitehead is currently preparing for England's third and deciding Test against New Zealand this weekend after which he will head south for the summer and to begin his two-year contract in Canberra.
Super League recruits Sia Soliola and Josh Hodgson were superb in a season of great promise in Canberra in 2015 and Taia believes the addition of Whitehead will further bolster an already strong Raiders forward pack.
"He's one player that's going to really make a difference to that squad this year," said Taia, who is back in the NRL at the Titans after three years at Catalans.
"He was awesome for the Catalans Dragons. He picked up the Player of the Year and the Players' Player this year and he's playing for the England squad and holding down a spot in the back row in that team.
"He does all the little one per-centers in games and with him and Sia Soliola and Josh Papalii, that's a solid pack. I rate him highly and I think he's going to do big things in Canberra."
Twenty-six years of age and with 177 Super League games to his name, Whitehead left his hometown of Bradford to seek a new challenge in France and will soon step further out of his comfort zone when he joins the Raiders.
At 6-foot-1 and 102 kilograms, Whitehead boasts an all-round game that will gel nicely with the attacking nature coach Ricky Stuart developed in the team in 2015.
His 11 tries for Catalans this past season were second-most in the club, his 79 tackle busts were equal top alongside Taia, his 11 try assists were behind only halves Scott Dureau (23) and former Raider Todd Carney (14) and he was only three tackles away from being the club's top defender.
"He's got all the tools," Taia told NRL.com.
"He's a hard worker, he runs a great line and he's got a bit of skill about him so it's hard to compare him to just one player.
"He can hit like Josh Papalii, he can run good lines like Sia Soliola, he's got everything and that's why I rate him so highly.
"He's still only young but he's good at defence and he's always willing to learn. That was the good thing about him, he was always willing to take on tips and he's just that type of player that you want at your club.
"I enjoyed my time playing alongside him in the back row because you knew that he was never going to let the team down."
Taia isn't the only one predicting big things from Whitehead with England coach and Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara also praising his move to the NRL and what he will bring to the competition.
"I've had a chat with Elliott about his move and I think it's good for him," McNamara told The Guardian in June.
"It will be a challenge for him, as it is for every player, but he's got elements to his game that will be really good and will improve in the NRL. I think he'll stand out."