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McLinden hopes to fill Latham's boots

By Jim Morton 27/10/2008 08:15:00 PM Comments (0)

Former Canberra Raiders playmaker Mark McLinden has knocked back a tempting Irish offer for a Rugby League World Cup swansong to focus on a successful code switch.

Instead of farewelling league with a bang for Ireland's Wolfhounds, McLinden is sweating it out in Super 14 pre-season training with the Queensland Reds.

The fleet-footed utility back has his sights set on filling the huge boots of Chris Latham at fullback for the Reds after ending a four-year English Super League stint with Harlequins.

McLinden was approached by Irish league officials earlier this year and weighed up the tempting World Cup offer briefly.

"I've been presented with an opportunity to play with Ireland in the past as well but I've turned them down because after every year I feel like I need a rest, and the World Cup is just more rugby league and I didn't feel I needed that," he told AAP.

"It would have been nice playing in a World Cup but I'm trying to look after my body and get it right for the Super 14 and I really want to start strong, I don't want to spend one year learning the code.

"I want to learn as much as I can and to make sure at least I don't appear like I'm a convert I look like I've been playing the code all my life."

McLinden played the XV-man code for the bulk of his junior years and made representative teams in both games before choosing league as a 16-year-old to achieve his childhood goal of playing for the Raiders.

He was the NRL rookie of the year in 1998 and went on to play 165 games for Canberra before signing with the London Broncos, who later became Harlequins, in 2004.

The 29-year-old still had a season to go on his `Quins contract but he asked to be released to return home and play rugby.

"I was just keen to get back here," the former 'Quins skipper said. "That worked out well because it coincided with the act I wanted to play rugby union."

Ironically, former Raiders teammate Clinton Schifcofske pointed the Reds in McLinden's direction two years after Schifcofske signed with Queensland when former coach Eddie Jones had initially targeted the headgeared utility.

"It was only right that when he left I took his place," McLinden said of Schifcofske, who now plays with Ulster in Ireland.

As well as providing an extra spark in attack, Reds coach Phil Mooney believes the new signing's experience and professionalism will be a major asset to his young squad.

"Clinton gave a really good character reference about Mark which is really important to us, that was certainly noted," Mooney said.

McLinden, who played mainly fullback for Harlequins, has the inside running in a three-man battle for the No.15 jersey following the departures of Latham and Schifcofske.

Youngsters Aidan Toua and Rod Davies are also in the mix, while Mooney has opted to leave winger Peter Hynes in the position he's cemented with the Wallabies.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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