Granted an early release by the Canberra Raiders, Semi Valemei will go from the cold of winter to the humid Townsville, signing for one and a half years with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Valemei was released by the Raiders to seek better first-grade opportunities and coach Ricky Stuart did not stand in Valemei’s way to make that happen.
“It was a really tough moment yesterday morning when Semi spoke to the group and it was emotional for him and the group,” Stuart said.
“I want Semi to be an NRL player and at the moment the best opportunity for him to play NRL will be at another club.:
Stuart does not like losing players but knows that if Valemei wanted to play NRL, the chances are better elsewhere.
“I’d have Semi here for the rest of his career if I could, but he needs to play NRL and he’s going to get a better chance at that somewhere else,” Stuart continued.
“They’re getting a wonderful young man and I hope he’s very successful as he deserves it.”
Valemei, a Fijian international, has played in 29 NRL games to date since making his debut at the Raiders in 2020.
The new winger arrived in Townsville this morning and will begin training on Tuesday with his new club.
Valemei’s addition is one that the Cowboys admit they have been courting for a while and now was the perfect time to execute it.
“We’re excited to be able to bring a player of Semi’s ability to our club at this stage of the season,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said.
“Semi has played 29 games at NRL level and has shown he’s a gifted finisher, strong defensively and talented in the air.”
With the Cowboys expected to miss several players in their backline due to Origin, Valemei will provide extra backs cover during that period.
“He will provide us with depth, particularly in the next six weeks as we head into the Origin period,” Luck continued.
“We looked at bringing Semi into the squad last year, which didn’t work out, but we are excited to secure his services for the rest of this year and 2024.”