Brent Naden will go from training with the Bulldogs on Monday morning to playing against them on Friday night as a mid-season NRL recruit for the Wests Tigers.
- Naden joined the Bulldogs at the start of the 2022 season, playing eight games
- The former Panther has moved to Wests Tigers this week, and will face the Bulldogs in his first game
- Both teams have a 2-8 win-loss record and sit in the bottom two spots of the table
Tigers coach Michael Maguire confirmed on Thursday that Naden would play, while insisting he was not considering a switch in the opposite direction to join Canterbury in 2023.
Instead, he said his focus remains solely on turning around the Tigers’ tough start as they sit above only Canterbury on the ladder after 10 rounds.
And he is hoping Naden can be part of that.
The first man to exit Canterbury after Trent Barrett’s resignation as coach, Naden can give the Tigers some backline strike-power after he was named in jersey number 21 on Tuesday.
“It was great for us,” Maguire said.
“I met Brent some time ago and I have always kept an eye on his progress… it just became an opportunity when he became available.
“Where we are at the moment, we have been looking for someone with strike out wide.
“I went back and had a look at his highlight reel from when he was at Penrith and he is a very talented centre.”
Bulldogs skipper Josh Jackson said the move had come as a shock, revealing Naden sent the squad a text message to announce his defection.
“Brent was a little bit out of the blue. Yesterday mid-afternoon, Brent sent us all a message,” Jackson said.
“We weren’t at training yesterday so he couldn’t address the group. He was sorry for that but he told us all then.
“I spoke to him yesterday but I’m not too sure about the circumstances surrounding it, but I just rang him to make sure he was alright.
“He felt pretty comfortable with his decision and said he made the best decision for his family.”
The Tigers have one more spot on their roster for 2022, but Maguire would not enter into speculation on whether fellow former Penrith and Bulldogs player Jack Hetherington would follow Naden across.
Maguire is off contract at the end of this year, and is far from assured of an extension at the Tigers after fighting to keep his job at the end of last season.
The Tigers have two wins from 10 games and desperately need a win on Friday night, with half Luke Brooks out for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury and Adam Doueihi also not due back until round 14.
But Maguire laughed off questions about whether he was eyeing off the Bulldogs job for next year.
“My name has been tossed up for many things across the past six or 12 months,” Maguire said.
“It’s the world of rugby league.
“But we’ve got a big game tomorrow night … I’m real focused on the playing group that we have at the moment.
“I have really enjoyed the coaching with the attitude of the players.
“While we haven’t managed to get the results we would have liked, the fight the players have shown for the jersey and everyone around the club [is commendable].
“The foundation is there for us to propel ourselves for where we want to get to.”
Pressed further on whether he had spoken to his management since Barrett’s exit, Maguire said he had not discussed the Canterbury situation.
“No, I’ve got my eyes on my players right now,” he said.
“It’s a really important game for us. I have seen a real change in this playing group in the way they are going about things.”