Sharks snap up Ayshford

With Blake Ayshford’s exit to Cronulla easing Wests Tigers’ salary cap pressures, the club hopes to find out swiftly whether it will hold onto its stars old and new – five-eighth Benji Marshall and winger Tim Simona.

Marshall returns from a holiday in Bali on Saturday, and is expected to inform the club within days whether he will remain, amid interest from rugby union. The Tigers are also hopeful of holding onto Simona, with Ayshford’s exit making it more likely the club can make a competitive offer to the youngster, who has also been targeted by the Sharks.

”We’ve made it quite clear that we’re very keen to bring through a range of young kids we’ve invested in,” Tigers chief operating officer Grant Mayer said. ”Tim is certainly one of those.”

Ayshford secured a release from the final two years of his contract to join the club which already has ex-Tigers Andrew Fifita, Bryce Gibbs, Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan on its books. He will join the Sharks on a two-year contract from next year.

”Managing the salary cap is often a day-by-day proposition and decisions like this, whilst difficult, are correct for our long-term plans,” Mayer said. ”We are going through an important rebuilding phase that will re-establish the Wests Tigers as a top contender year on year. We have some exceptionally big decisions to make over the coming months and with the direction of our board, I am confident that our future will be bright. From a football perspective, we need a cultural shift that will help develop our young talent. Players like Tim Simona, David Nofoaluma, Marika Koroibete, Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses, Kyle Lovett, Nathan Brown and Matt Woods are all coming through our system and need to be developed and invested in.”

Mayer is likely to meet Marshall’s manager Martin Tauber on Sunday, possibly with the five-eighth, whose contract has been the subject of debate for several months. The Tigers have offered Marshall an upgrade of his contract, which expires at the end of 2015. ”We’re very keen for Benji to stay,” Mayer said. ”He has made it quite clear he has some issues to resolve, and that’s fine.”

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, meanwhile, lauded the signing of Ayshford. ”We have brought some quality players to the club over the past few seasons and Blake is another one we are excited about having here at the Sharks,” Flanagan said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.