League: Warriors are looking to make a man out of Moon

By Michael Brown

Joel Moon has always lived with high expectations from the time he was at high school and there is a hope and belief within Warriors HQ he will be their answer in the pivotal five-eighth position next year.

They labelled his signing last month as a "coup" and just last month television commentator and former Broncos and Queensland five-eighth Ben Ikin described Moon as "a star in the making".

It's appropriate, then, that the 20-year-old likens his game to Braith Anasta's. Anasta carried around the weight of expectations too but often came up short (he was voted the game's most over-rated player three years in a row). Recently, however, he's confirmed his standing as one of the best five-eighths in the NRL.

Moon has signed a three-year deal to join the Warriors from next season and will likely take over from Michael Witt, who has proven a good goalkicker but inconsistent in general play.

The five-eighth position has been a problem at the Warriors for some time and it's understood the club were close to giving under-20s pivot Daniel O'Regan a run last weekend against the Wests Tigers before shifting Witt to the bench.

Moon was spotted while playing for Morayfield State High School by legendary Broncos scout Cyril Connell, who 'discovered' Darren Lockyer, Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Tonie Carroll, Shaun Berrigan, Brent Tate and Karmichael Hunt.

At 17 he was playing Queensland Cup, helping the Toowoomba Clydesdales to the grand final, and he made his NRL debut against Souths in 2006 three weeks after his 18th birthday. He's had limited opportunities at the six-time premiership winners, however, and has played only 23 first-grade games, and only one in his preferred position of five-eighth.

"Ivan [Cleary] said the No 6 is there for me," Moon says from Brisbane. "That's what sold it for me, really. I love five-eighth and played there all through my junior grades.

"I think I play a bit like Braith Anasta. He's strong, is good with the ball and runs a lot. I like doing that."

Moon has had to content himself mainly with a role in the centres for Brisbane because of a certain Darren Lockyer.

Moon was the subject of a big-money offer by the Storm a couple of seasons ago but turned it down on advice from Wayne Bennett.

"He was a big reason why I stayed [with Brisbane]," Moon says. "He's the best coach and I wanted to stay with him. He came and talked to me and said I would learn more staying with him and playing under Darren Lockyer.

"I was too young and inexperienced to move. My family was up here and I thought it would be a bit hard. I'm a bit older now, a bit wiser and the Warriors is a great opportunity. I had the chance to go to the Dragons [where Bennett is heading] but I had to do something different than being under Wayne again."

Although Moon probably didn't need much persuading, Warriors skipper Steve Price put on his salesman's cap and called him to let him know what life islike at the Mt Smart outfit. He also spoke at length with fellow new recruit and Broncos team-mate Denan Kemp, who came to Auckland to check things out before signing.

The Broncos would have liked to hold onto the former Australian Schoolboys representative but knew it was a lost cause.

"He goes with our blessing," says Broncos recruitment manager Paul Bunn, who Moon lived with for 12 months. "Even though we developed him and he's got a good work ethic and a great attitude we realise he needs to move to get an opportunity to play five-eighth on a regular basis. You're hardly going to do that here while Darren Lockyer is on the scene.'

"He's always had big raps on him right from when he was 15. He's always handled that well because he's pretty calm. He's on his way to be a really good footballer and will play many, many NRL games."

The Warriors will hope they win many games with Moon calling the shots, too.

- Herald on Sunday

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