Position switch vital for off-contract Whitchurch
Forgotten utility Aaron Whitchurch hopes a move from the centres into the second-row will revitalise his NRL career.
Whitchurch has not been offered a new contract by the Brisbane Broncos after failing to play an NRL match with the club in 2016.
This unfortunately has been the story of the 24-year-old's NRL career, with Whitchurch playing two NRL matches in 2012, one in 2013 and two in 2015.
Whitchurch had always been Brisbane's Mr Fix-it over the Origin period, but has never been able to hold down a position in the Broncos' 17 – starting only once in his five-game NRL career.
With his contract at Brisbane finished it means he is now without an NRL club for 2017, instead signing on with Intrust Super Cup side the Redcliffe Dolphins for at least the next 12 months.
It ends an affiliation with the Broncos that began back in 2010 when he debuted in the club's NYC team, but he still holds out hope that another NRL opportunity may arise.
"I jumped in the second row a few times at Broncos training this year. I'd often move between second row and centre," Whitchurch said.
"I'm not contracted to Brisbane next year so it looks like I'll just be at Redcliffe.
"I need to speak to my manager about NRL possibilities, but I've signed with the Dolphins so unless something comes up in the NRL then it looks like I'll be staying at Redcliffe.
"I'm happy at the club and I love playing for them."
If an NRL club doesn't approach Whitchurch, the Dolphins will be happy to keep him.
Redcliffe made it all the way to the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final this year, falling just short of their first Queensland Cup title since 2006 – losing 26-16 to the Burleigh Bears.
Whitchurch was a huge part of this finals push, and he was arguably the Dolphins' best on ground in the grand final as he ran for 170 metres and made 29 tackles in the second row.
This effort is even more impressive considering he had only played a handful of matches in the position beforehand – starting at centre for much of the season.
Western Australian-born Whitchurch spoke to NRL.com after the grand final, and he said the increased involvement when playing in the forwards is what he loved most about the move.
"I hope I stay in the second row," he said.
"I've only played a couple games there throughout the year, but from what I've experienced I think it suits the way I play.
"I'm more involved in the second row than I am when I play centre.
"It will be good to have a big pre-season training as a second-row forward. Hopefully I'll go through the whole of 2017 playing in that position."
It's a move that then Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin hinted at in 2012 when he said he rated Whitchurch as a forward, but now it is finally coming to fruition.
Redcliffe coach Adam Mogg is the mastermind behind the full-time move; impressed with what he saw when Whitchurch was first told to change positions.
"We had a few injuries and suspensions so our Redcliffe coach Adam Mogg just put me there for a game," Whitchurch said.
"I went well and he wanted to keep the team the same so I stayed in that position.
"I said to 'Moggy' earlier in the year that I'd be keen to play second row if a spot came up so I got my wish."