McIlwrick: Young Tigers have Shark-like traits
He has seen first-hand what it takes to win the NRL Telstra Premiership and new Wests Tigers hooker Matt McIlwrick believes his new club boasts the type of traits that took the Sharks all the way in 2016.
Still just 25 years of age, the Tigers represent McIlwrick's fourth NRL club after previous stints with the Raiders, Roosters and Sharks in 2016.
Although he featured in just two games for Cronulla in their historic season he was part of the training sessions that carried them all the way and believes there are similarities in what he has seen in his first couple of months at the Tigers.
"It was good to be part of the premiership-winning side, I got a couple of games in last year and I guess now what I can say is that I know what it takes to win a premiership," McIlwrick told Tigers TV.
"I saw the training all the boys put in day in and day out and especially the unity that the Sharks had last year and I feel a very similar thing here at the Tigers.
"All the boys are very tight and I see good things for the future of this club. The energy that the young blokes bring to training every day is second to none and that's what you need in a footy side.
"We've got a good mix of young blokes and a few older heads so it's a pretty exciting time, especially for those younger guys in those senior roles.
"There are good things going forward and hopefully we can win a premiership next year."
The departure of club stalwart Robbie Farah opens the door for a new No.9 to make their name at the Wests Tigers with McIlwrick wedged in between veteran Matt Ballin and outstanding prospect Jacob Liddle who made his NRL debut in Round 18 this year.
With the established halves pairing of Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses and the brilliant James Tedesco at fullback, McIlwrick admitted that slotting straight into the Tigers spine requires plenty of extra homework.
"Obviously coming to a new club you've got to learn a fair bit, different plays and different names for things but those boys have been great for me," McIlwrick said.
"They're young and enthusiastic and already you've got one of the best halves and fullback combination in the game so exciting times ahead."
With 29 NRL games across five seasons at four different clubs, McIlwrick admits that 2017 shapes as a critical one in his career and that he is eager to turn his one-year deal at the Tigers into a more long-term association.
"It's a pretty big year for me. I've been at a few clubs now and I don't really want to be going anywhere else," he said.
"It's a massive year for me in terms of opportunity. If I do get an opportunity to play I've got to take it with both hands."