Joel Edwards was presented with the match ball in his 100th game.

Edwards' long journey to 100

Wests Tigers forward Joel Edwards isn't one to create headlines.

‌The hard-hitting Cessnock junior has endured a fascinating career since making his first grade debut with Newcastle in 2010.

After a season under former Knights coach Wayne Bennett in the Hunter, the 28-year-old sensationally turned his back on the much-respected mentor and his hometown club to continue his career in Canberra. 

A toe injury would cut short his time in the nation's capital with both Edwards and the Raiders mutually agreeing on his contract release – only a season into his new three-year deal.

Reaching 100 games in the NRL Telstra Premiership for some players comes quicker than others and for most, it doesn't happen at all.

For Edwards, who achieved the milestone on Sunday afternoon against the Bulldogs, it was a long time coming.

"I have heard a quote before that [you're only an NRL player when you've played 100 games]… I think the average is in the 40s," Edwards told NRL.com.

"There are some blokes who play 300 games and then there are others who have been lucky to only play one.

"To reach 100 is something I will cherish more probably later on in my career, it will probably sink in then.

"I got the match ball at the end of the game and a lot of family and friends turned out so I'm incredibly blessed.

"To get the win with the boys made it even more special, I can't be thankful enough."

Edwards revealed he endured a long rehabilitation process and couldn't believe how much time he was forced to miss due to reconstructive toe surgery in 2015, with fears he may be forced into early retirement.

"The [toe] injury at Canberra really held me back, it could have easily been the end of my career," he admitted.

"I couldn't walk on it, things went on and I ended up having the surgery and there were some pretty dark times. You never know when your last game is up so you've just got to enjoy it each week."

While players ponder what could have been, Edwards wouldn't have his career any other way after stints at three different clubs to reach the century.

The journeyman insists the biggest thrill moving from one club to the other is stepping outside a comfort zone and lifestyle to constantly meet new people from all walks of life.

"That's probably the benefit of being to a few different clubs, you come across a variety of people," he said.

"I played with Matt McIlwrick at Canberra and Kevin Naiqama at Newcastle but other than those boys I've been constantly able to meet new people on my journey.

"Things happen for a reason, I've always believed that and you move on to grow as a person more than anything."

Off-contract at the end of 2017, Edwards is used to the feeling of the unknown and after originally having nothing lined up following his release with the Raiders, he is not one to worry about what the future this early on in the season.

Like most at the joint venture however, he is glad new coach Ivan Cleary is dealing with player movement speculation head on and has welcomed his first month playing under him.

"Whatever direction the club goes in, if I'm playing good footy then that will take care over everything else," Edwards said.

"I'm married and looking to have a family but thinking or guessing where you might be, the future isn’t here yet. 

"I don't like to take notice of what's written or spoken about because ultimately you have to play alongside those blokes the next weekend whoever it is.

"We need to focus on what we can control and I think that’s where the club needs to be strong over the next coming weeks.

"It's more about turning up each week and winning, if we can be a threat to the competition then that's more important, we've got to be in the present."