Grant excited about Idris reunion
While some in the outside world have questioned the Wests Tigers' decision to sign Jamal Idris, his new teammates are adamant that the former representative centre will prove to be an astute purchase.
The former Bulldog, Titan and Panther suited up for pre-season training for the first time since he walked away from the game in 2015 in a bid to learn more about himself and the rest of the world.
Before his sabbatical Idris had been a somewhat enigmatic player, but on his day was up there as one of the most damaging ball-runners in rugby league.
Wests Tigers prop Tim Grant played 11 games alongside Idris at the Panthers in 2014 and said he respected Jamal's move.
"I don't see how it's a risk [for the Tigers to recruit Idris]. What Jamal did, he was honest with himself that he needed a break from the game. I think that in itself was a massive leap forward, and a lot of people wouldn't do that," Grant said.
"A lot of people would just be comfortable and not be happy and cop their pay cheque, but Jamal was honest with himself and honest with the club and teammates, and took the break. I haven't seen Jamal this happy for a long time.
"My experiences with Jamal were always upbeat and a pleasure to be around. He'd bring out the best in you as well."
Grant said Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor had spoken to the senior playing group before signing Idris and was happy to put in the good word for the 26-year-old.
"He (Taylor) is aware of chemistry within a team, and I spoke to him about Jamal about playing with him at Penrith," Grant said.
"I'm good mates with Jamal and I just thought it'd be a perfect fit, not just for the Wests Tigers, but for Jamal as well. I couldn't speak highly enough of him.
"Jamal is a character. He'll fit in anywhere. When JT was speaking about him coming to the club, I was pretty excited, and I think it's a great prospect for the club and also for Jamal. I think it's a great club for Jamal to fit in and also play his best footy."
It remains unclear whether Idris will slot into the centres where he has played the majority of his 131-game career, or move to the back row to allow Kevin Naiqama and Tim Simona to retain their places in the three-quarter line.
However, early indications from his teammates suggest Idris will be pushing for a spot in the backline; something Grant believes will bring out the best in the current centres.
"I don't think Jamal would like to be in the forwards. I think he'll play in the centres," he said.
"Everyone's going to be competing more for a spot. He's played at the highest level, and we've got a lot of young guys at the club, and a guy with Jamal's experience is a massive asset."
Chris Lawrence's days in the centres are long gone, but the Wests Tigers veteran still remembers how damaging Idris can be out wide.
The pair squared off seven times at NRL level, with Jamal earning bragging rights on four occasions, and once more in the 2010 City-Country clash.
"I remember back in the days when I was a centre and had to mark him, he was a handful," Lawrence said.
"He was one of those guys who was very difficult to tackle and deceptively quick. Hopefully he can get back to that and show us some of that form for us as well.
"From what I can see so far, he's really keen and he's hungry. When someone's given that second chance and a chance to prove themselves, most often they come out and they do prove everyone wrong."