Huddersfield Giants head coach Rick Stone is to hand prop Shannon Wakeman his chance to prove himself in first-grade rugby league.
Stone has added to the signing of Newcastle Knights full back Jake Mamo with prop forward and fellow Australian 26-year-old Shannon Wakeman on a two-year contract.
Wakeman is a free agent but was at the Illawarra Cutters last season, gaining selection to the NSW Intrust team of the Year as well as helping the Cutters to the second-grade league title in 2016.
Stone views Wakeman, who is 16st 7lb, as a replacement for Craig Huby in his 2017 squad.
“Obviously the move away by Craig came a bit out of left-field and left us searching for an established and experienced out and out front row forward,” explained Stone.
“I had already considered Shannon for further down the line for us, but when our situation changed then Shannon was my go-to guy to come across.
“I have seen plenty of him in action back home and he is a big mobile type of front rower, and I know he wants a crack at the top flight, which is something I am pleased we can give him.
“He is at the stage of his career now where if he is going to make the big breakthrough then he needs an opportunity and a start – we can provide both for him.
“I am confident that he can bring a lot to our squad – he is a big man around 6ft 2in and he can motor a bit.”
Wakeman is looking forward to joining the Giants and said: “I am happy to have a new challenge overseas and in the Super League at Huddersfield.
“I’ll be teaming up again with my front row partner Sebastine Ikahihifo, who played last year with us for a while before he moved to the UK.
“So it’ll be good to have a familiar face when I get there.”
Wakeman is the only Cutter to play more than 100 games in the NSW competition, and his consistency has seen the prop become a mainstay in Illawarra’s charge to winning honours.
Viewed as tough and uncompromising in the middle, Wakeman has been outstanding in both making yards with the ball and in bone-jarring defence.
His 397 runs for 3,882 metres were the most of any player in the competition and highlights of last season included a brace of tries against Newtown in Round 13 and a pin-point conversion attempt in his 100th game against the Wests Tigers.
Wakeman, like Mamo, is set to join his new teammates in January and added: “I’ll spend Christmas here in Australia and then as soon as my documentation comes through I’ll be straight across and ready to rip in for the Giants.
“I’ve wanted a crack full-time in the top grade for a long time now and reckon I’ve served my apprenticeship.
“So the opportunity at Huddersfield is great for me and one that I want to make the most of.”