LAKES United continued to build up their arsenal for next year’s Newcastle Rugby League season by luring NSW Country hooker Chris Adams from Cessnock.
Adams agreed to terms yesterday and joins the Seagulls’ other high-profile recruits, Wests duo Brad Murray and Jake Finn.
Lakes coach Dean Noonan said geography and his personal relationship with the Toukley-based Adams, forged during the hooker’s time at the Knights, were the deciding factors in the deal.
‘‘He’s a very loyal fella, Chris, and I actually wanted him to come this year, but he stood on a promise that he made to Cessnock that he would return when his Knights duties were finished,’’ Noonan said.
‘‘We wanted to have a crack together and the time was right.’’
Adams’ younger brother Kallin, who plays for the Toukley Hawks, is also on Lakes’ wishlist.
Noonan played down talk the Seagulls would be a premiership force next season and said the club’s aim was regaining respect.
‘‘We want to compete, and boys like Chris will help us do that,’’ he said. ‘‘With him it’s not just about what he brings on the paddock; it’s what he brings off it as well with his tremendous work ethic.’’
The news comes as a blow to the Goannas and their new coach, Craig Miller.
Cessnock have also lost their captain and five-eighth, Riley Brown, to Souths and his brother and halfback, Joel, is expected to sign with Wests in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the final coaching vacancy in the league was filled yesterday when Rowan Kelly signed on as Central Newcastle captain-coach.
Kelly first considered becoming Central captain-coach a year ago, but Matt Lantry’s arrival convinced him the time was not right.
With Lantry having rebuilt Central into a semi-final force before signing on as Knights NSW Cup coach for next season, Kelly decided it was time to live out his dream of leading his beloved Butcher Boys.
The 32-year-old signed on to be captain-coach at Central next year and non-playing coach in 2016. But the Central junior is open to playing on in the second season.
Kelly had initially denied interest in the role as he was concerned it would affect his football. But a conversation with Lantry last week convinced the second-rower he could juggle playing and coaching responsibilities.
‘‘Matty put it to me, and I went away over the weekend and had a think about it, and I was pretty comfortable with my decision,’’ Kelly said.
The one-time struggling Butcher Boys turned themselves around on and off the field this season under Lantry to finish fourth.
Lantry played a leading role in appointing Kelly, who won a premiership with Wyong in 2009. He believes his successor has the respect of the players to continue the club’s upward trajectory.
‘‘We weren’t after an individual who was going to run a dictatorship. We were looking for someone who could continually engage the players,’’ Lantry said.
‘‘One thing I’m a believer of is the more you can engage the players as a coach in relation to the game plan and the direction of the team, the more they buy into it.
‘‘Rowan has that attribute as a coach.’’
Contrary to media reports, there was never a secret deal struck between Central and Miller before the grand final.
A report in a Sunday newspaper said Miller, who was leaving Wests for Cessnock, would join the Butcher Boys instead of the Goannas if the Rosellas lost the decider.
Wyong assistant coach Ian Bourke was the only other candidate sounded out.