NRL: Warriors pick Latimore to plug gap

By Steve Deane

Whether Jeremy Latimore can add the ball-playing ability remains to be seen. Photo / Getty Images
Whether Jeremy Latimore can add the ball-playing ability remains to be seen. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors have bolstered their front row resources after the departures of 100-gamer Evarn Tuimavave and promising youngster Leeson Ah Mau, signing Jeremy Latimore from the Parramatta Eels to plug the gap.

The 109kg, 1.91m former Junior Kangaroo made seven first grade appearances off the bench for the grand finalists this year, the last of which was the 40-4 victory over the Warriors in round 23.

With Steve Price, Sam Rapira and Russell Packer established as the senior props, Latimore will compete for game time with Jesse Royal, Mataupu Poching and James Gavet, one of five players promoted from the NYC team at the end of the season.

With Jacob Lillyman's shift into the front row likely to become permanent, Latimore could struggle to make an impression on what is a heavily congested front row picture.

"He has got the chance to push for a spot just like everybody else," coach Ivan Cleary said.

Latimore is the first signing since the backroom reshuffle that put Dean Bell in charge of player recruitment, but it was Cleary who had been tracking the 22-year-old since he won the New South Wales Cup last year with Wentworthville - alongside fellow new Warriors recruit James Maloney.

"We were in the market for another prop and we knew a lot about Jeremy," Cleary said.

The Warriors have had a healthy track record of identifying talent in Australia's second-tier competitions, with Kiwis fullback Brent Webb, former halfback Grant Rovelli and backrower/hooker Lewis Brown among their successes.

Having broken through with the Eels this season, Latimore doesn't quite fit that "unknown" bill.

But with Nathan Cayless and Fuifui Moimoi heading a log-jam of front row talent at the Eels, his prospects were probably limited at his former club.

Latimore, who joins the Warriors on a one-year deal with an option for a second year, was steady enough in his efforts for the Eels, averaging just over 50m a match from 10 carries.

He also made plenty of tackles while missing few and made just two errors, but whether he can add the ball-playing ability absent from the pack remains to be seen.

In his seven appearances he failed to make a line break and produced only two offloads.

In another move by the club, promising halfback Shaun Johnson signed a contract extension that will keep him there until 2012, with an option for 2013.

A former touch player, Johnson has been slated as the club's halfback of the future.

- NZ Herald

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