Tiger ends 19-month NRL hiatus
Wests Tigers back-rower Joel Edwards has revealed the risk he took in name of extending his first grade career, as he looks to end his 590-day NRL hiatus by featuring against the Melbourne Storm this weekend.
Edwards confirmed he was granted a release from the final two years of his contract at the Canberra Raiders in August last year despite having no offer from another NRL club at the time.
"[The Raiders and I] came to an agreement to part ways and head in different directions. I didn't have anything lined up when I was released by the Raiders so I was throwing caution to the wind a little bit," Edwards told NRL.com.
"It was what it was though and things panned out. I'm just grateful for the Wests Tigers for giving me another opportunity. It's a great club and I'm just privileged to be here."
Making his risk even bigger was the fact Edwards' final season at the Raiders was derailed by a toe injury which kept him out of first grade for the entire year.
The Cessnock Goannas junior was left to sit idly by as the likes of Jarrad Kennedy, Mitchell Barnett and Luke Bateman furthered their individual NRL careers.
"Last year was disappointing. Especially over a big toe. You don't really expect that to carry on as much as it did," Edwards said.
"I was just grateful for the people like my family, friends and wife who were there with me, supported me in all the ways that I needed and stood strong.
"I learnt a lot throughout that experience. It's not all doom and gloom and I learnt a lot about myself and my family and friends and how much they mean to me."
Edwards could hardly contain his excitement over finally earning his club debut against the Storm at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon, his first start in the NRL since Round 26, 2013.
A hamstring injury spoilt his pre-season preparations but after spending the past month in the Intrust Super Premiership Edwards has finally been rewarded for his efforts by coach Jason Taylor – in light of Aaron Woods' (ankle) expected six-week layoff.
"It's a real honour and I'm very grateful. It was a frustrating first few weeks to come to the club and then tear my hamstring," Edwards said.
"I'm happy now it's in the past and I finally get to go out there on Sunday and play with this exciting side. The stage is set and we're looking forward to playing hopefully in front of a packed house.
You best believe the flock of friends and family who helped Edwards in his time of need will be cheering him on too.
"There will be a lot of family and friends who will head down the M1 to come and watch me," he said, with a smile.