Cleary lauds new faces Fonua and Thompson
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary praised the performance of two players the club offered an opportunity to return to the NRL after Mahe Fonua and Corey Thompson starred in Thursday night's 20-12 win over North Queensland at Leichhardt Oval.
Thompson laid on his side's second try by winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak in the 24th minute, while Fonua was a constant threat to the Cowboys defence and ran 230 metres with the ball.
Both were regarded as wingers before they went to Super League but Thompson has been playing fullback for the Tigers, while Fonua moved to the centres against North Queensland.
"We are a rebuilding team, we turned the roster over big time last year and as much as anything we are trying to build the club and the environment so we were looking for players who wanted to come and contribute to that," Cleary said.
"Not everyone wants to do that, not everyone wants to come to a rebuilding team, most players would prefer to go to a team that is already established and doing well.
"For those guys, they were looking to get back into the NRL so we probably suited them and they probably suited us."
Cleary said he knew Thompson could play fullback but didn't initially intend to play him there.
"Corey has been a terrific find for us," Cleary said. "He was originally a fullback in Brisbane and came down the Bulldogs and played on the wing. He has done both for us."
Fonua shifted to the centres after Cleary decided to call in Watene-Zelezniak in place of Kevin Naiqama and looked at home in the position.
"Mahe is one of those guys who sometimes when he gets the ball both coaches hold their breath," Cleary said.
"Tonight, he had all the right moves, he was a threat constantly, he is a presence and was error free as well.
"We moved him to the centres tonight, he has played a bit of both over the years but he certainly looked comfortable in that role tonight. He certainly played his part in that win."