Cronulla Sharks get Reni Maitua

Cronulla Sharks LogoDiscarded Bulldog Reni Maitua has signed with the Cronulla Sharks for the 2009 NRL season.

After a nervous wait for the former Belmore boy, Maitua has managed to keep his NRL career afloat – dodging possible deregistration and then finally agreeing to terms with the Sharks.

It seems obvious now the Sharks are ready to offload Greg Bird – with Maitua the ideal positional replacement and also a former Test lock in previous years.

“In the end it was a tough decision,” Maitua said.

“I appreciate the interest from all the other clubs. (But) I made a football decision and I think I can have a very good year with Sharks. I ended up just doing a one year deal because I am planning on having a really big year. I am backing myself to play good football.”

It seems Cronulla may have flown under the radar to some extent, with Melbourne and the Cowboys weighing in – however, many felt that Maitua would join Souths and be reunited with good friends John Sutton and Roy Asotasi.

Even heavyweight Russell Crowe tried to lunch Maitua to swing him Redferns way, but it seems it was Ricky Stuart that was able to lure the former Test player to the Shire for a 12 month crack at redeeming himself.

Maitua’s manager Sam Ayoub, yesterday confirming the influence Ricky Stuart had on talks. Regardless of which club Maitua chose in the end, many feel the change of coach and surroundings will help the talented lock rediscover his form and enjoy the game once more.

“It has been a tough couple of weeks,” Ayoub said. “I think all the interest has vindicated the quality of Maitua not only as a player but as a person. In particular I would like to thank Souths for their interest because it was really touch-and-go with them and a very tough decision.

“Russell Crowe and Jason Taylor were very professional and all the other clubs were great. Reni just thought going to Cronulla was the best thing for his football.”

It’s an impressive recruiting drive for the Sharks; with new faces such as Anthony Tupou, Corey Hughes and Trent Barrett all making for a powerful 2009 roster. The other drawcard for Cronulla in 2009 is the fact that coach Ricky Stuart is now dedicated to the club role – after walking away from national duties.

“I think in the end, getting the chance to play under Stuart was the biggest factor,” Ayoub said. “It would be fair to say that is what got him over the line.”

Maitua was forced to look at other clubs after being pushed in early December by the Bulldogs for a missed training session. This coupled with previous offences left the Bulldogs with no choice but to boot Maitua from Belmore as they continued their cleanout for 2009.

Maitua after being happy to settle for a short term 12 month deal will now need to prove himself under Stuart after an average 2008 showing where he was hampered by injury and only average showings in first grade. Adding to Maitua’s woes, was the poor form and pressure at Belmore – the Bulldogs performing poorly all year and culminating in the departure of Sonny Bill Williams during the season.

Current Cronulla lock Greg Bird now remains in limbo, the player currently in the USA with girlfriend Katie Milligan. However this latest signing probably shows the hand of Sharks officials, who no doubt have the talent in Maitua if committed – to replace the void left should they show Bird the door.

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