FORMER Test and Origin lock Glenn Stewart is the biggest name on the recruitment list, but Wests coach Pete McLeod is confident a host of returning Devils can lift the club back to Illawarra Rugby League supremacy.
The club confirmed earlier this month that 203-game NRL veteran Stewart will return to his junior club in 2018 and he’ll be joined by some other favourite sons in Jimmy Grehan and Luke Towers who were part of the club’s three-peat of titles between 2009-2011.
“Glenn actually contacted us and said he was moving back to Wollongong and that he wanted to play footy,” McLeod said.
“It’s a really big boost for the club and I know a lot of the younger guys we’ve had in first grade over the last couple of years are really excited to play footy with him.
“He’s made it pretty clear that he’s not coming back to make up the numbers he wants to be successful and his positivity about that when he spoke to me was great.
“He’s obviously done everything in the game and the young blokes playing with him will obviously look up to him a bit and are excited to get to play with him.”
In addition to Grehan and Towers, two-time league leading point-scorer Mitch Porter will also return to Parrish Park to add experience to what was a youthful 2017 squad.
“We’ve got 16-17 guys there from last year who under the age of 25 who’ve all come back,” McLeod said.
“We’ve been lucky to get another couple of experienced Wests guys back in Jimmy Grehan, Mitchy Porter and Luke Towers so it’s been a good preseason.”
The 2018 season will be a big one on the personal front for McLeod, who’ll take the reins fulltime after assisting former coach Brett Kimmorley for the past two seasons.
McLeod also worked under Paul McGregor and Jason Ryles who are now in the NRL coaching ranks and is confident the club has provided a solid apprenticeship.
“I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had some really good blokes to coach under if you look at the guys who’ve been there in the seven years I’ve been here,” McLeod said.
“To get the job myself is something I never really expected to happen but it has and I’ll work as hard as I can to be as successful as we can as a footy club that demands success.
“Brett [Kimmorley] is going to be our coaching director so he’ll be at Parrish Park working with first grade and all the other grades and juniors throughout the club.
“I’ve got a really good relationship with Brett and he’s got a very astute coaching and football brain so I’ll certainly be bouncing some ideas off him.”