Wests have landed the first big recruitment fish ahead of next Illawarra League season, with the Devils bringing 155-game NRL hooker James Segeyaro to Parrish Park.
The now 32-year-old enjoyed a decade-long NRL career with five clubs, most recently making a lone appearance for Manly in 2022 before linking with Bradford in the UK via France this year.
The PNG International will now continue his career in Wollongong after inking a deal with the Devils, the club looking to improve on a week-one finals exit in August.
The Devils have featured in three of the last four grand finals, claiming the flag in 2018, but the club's struggled to find a consistent dummy-half, with utility whiz Joseph Dickson filling the role last season.
Returning coach Pete McLeod said bringing in a rake of Segeyaro's class is a major boost for the club's title prospects.
"It's always good to have quality players, but certainly getting a quality nine will be good for the club and for the comp as well," McLeod said.
"We had Joseph Dickson and a couple of the young blokes do a good job for us last year, but they ended in [Dragons] 21s. Dickson can be so versatile, he can play anywhere, but I think he's probably more served as a runner. Getting a guy like James in will let us move him into a more running role.
"James is good friends with (Devils winger) Jy Hitchcox and a few of them who were playing with us last year, we've told him a bit about the club so far and I've got no doubt that he's professional guy who'll buy into it.
"He's definitely going to add to us, but I think anyone who watched the first division grand final last year sees that we've got a whole heap of young guys who did really well last year.
"Some of them played a bit of first grade, some of them not yet, but they're going to really add to our group too, so it's all looking good for a good season."
Segeyaro will also add valuable experience following the retirement of Grant Millington, who's joined McLeod's coaching staff for 2024, while Cronulla NRL premiership-winner Sosaia Feki suffered a torn pectoral in the Devils final outing of 2023.
"I've been doing it a long time now and I try not to make the decision until the back end of the year and when it's all done and dusted," McLeod said.
"At the end of the day, I enjoy coaching footy, I love the club and it was going to be hard to give it away. We had a bit of a disappointing end to our year last year and I strive to leave to joint in a really good position.
"This year I'm just excited with the young group of players that we've got coming through. The blokes that have been there a long time, they're motivated to have some success, and we've added James to the roster so it looks like we're in for a strong year and I just wanted to be a part of it.
"There's some interest from higher levels with NSW Cup and Queensland Cup and we always push our players to play as high [a level] as they can.
"Other than that, we'll have a very similar team that has run out on the field in the last couple of years, but I'm really looking to get the guys who did well for us in first division last year and see what they can do in the top grade too."
McLeod was more than happy to have retiring Millington stay on with the club in coaching capacity after hanging up the boots on two seasons as a Devil.
"He's played a lot of footy at the highest level so he's definitely going to add to the team as a coach and I'm going to learn a lot of him as well," McLeod said.
"Apart from all of that, he's just a really good fella and a good bloke to spend time with so we'll enjoy working together and the players will get another viewpoint of it all too."
McLeod is one of four returning coaches next season, with Jarrod Costello staying on with Thirroul in an effort to defend the Butchers 2023 crown, while Peter Hooper will be looking to go one better in his second year with Collegians and Dapto favourite son Blake Wallace will remain at the Canaries helm.
At De La Salle, Luke Manahan will move into a club-wide coaching role and hand the first-grade coaching reins to assistant coach Trent Anderson. Corrimal is yet to announce a new head coach after parting ways with Drew Keys after two seasons.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.