Cowboys lure Wille Tonga - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cowboys lure Wille Tonga

By Laine Clark and Ben Galvin 02/04/2008 10:16:24 PM Comments (0)

A chat with foundation Cowboy Paul Bowman convinced North Queensland boss Peter Parr he should pursue former international Willie Tonga.

And his two-year quest officially ended - but only after more conversations with knee specialists.

The Cowboys confirmed they had signed Bulldogs centre Tonga on a four-year deal from 2009.

Parr has not been short on advice this season after enduring speculation and criticism surrounding the Cowboys' handling of their outgoing coach Graham Murray.

But the North Queensland chief executive said Bowman had been the voice of reason in their hunt for the 24-year-old Tonga.

"I have listened to the critics too much in the past about the quality of players," Parr told reporters in Townsville.

"(But) one guy I listened to in particular was Paul Bowman who told me Willie is the most difficult centre he had marked in his (12-year) NRL career so that is pretty good for me.

"He (Tonga) has played State of Origin and for Australia and he plays a position we need to strengthen in the outside backs - he is top shelf and we are delighted."

The Cowboys had been chasing Tonga since 2006 when he first came off contract at the Bulldogs.

Parr said the Cowboys weren't fazed by Tonga's well documented injury woes.

A knee injury wrecked his 2005 season - the year he played the last of his seven Tests for Australia.

The same ailment ruled him out of the Bulldogs' 2006 finals campaign.

Tonga also underwent post-season knee surgery last year after missing just three games, producing the most line breaks (18) for the Bulldogs.

Knee specialists eased the Cowboys' concerns over Tonga.

But Parr said any lingering doubts were erased by Tonga's last round effort against the Wests Tigers.

He made 97 metres in the Bulldogs' 32-12 win.

"We have had some independent assessments done on his knee and if anyone saw the game against the Tigers on the weekend I think he may have dispelled any injury doubts," he said.

"So we have had some assessments done on his knee and they have come back very positive and as I said he is 24 years of age so we don't see a huge risk in him.

"That is one of the things when you sign rugby league players, they play a collision sport and there is always the threat of injury no matter who you sign."

Tonga - who followed the Broncos as a kid growing up in Cherbourg, central Queensland - reportedly knocked back a two-year Bulldogs extension worth $300,000 a season.

The flying centre reportedly snapped up a Cowboys deal worth $1.4 million over four seasons.

But Parr said those figures were "particularly inflated".

Tonga will be reunited with former 2004 Bulldogs premiership teammates Johnathan Thurston and Ben Harris at North Queensland.

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