James Tedesco and Aaron Woods are poised to meet with their prospective new coaches before hearing the final pitch from Wests Tigers next week.
Canterbury and the Roosters are both keen on Tedesco, while the Bulldogs are also in the mix for Woods’ services. Suggestions that the tri-colours are interested in Woods are off the mark.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson and Canterbury coach Des Hasler are expected to meet their recruitment targets in the coming days and show off their club’s facilities, which are far superior to the Tigers infrastructure at Concord. The pair have been worn down by the lengthy contract saga and are leaning towards leaving Wests Tigers.
However, officials from the joint-venture outfit are expected to hold another round of talks with them next week in a last-ditch attempt to turn them into one-club men.
Mitchell Moses has already committed to Parramatta and is expected to join the Eels after the Easter Monday clash. As it stands, halfback Luke Brooks is the only member of the “big four” that has committed to the Tigers.
The situation has drastically changed over the last five weeks, when the quartet had all but agreed to terms to stay put. After their big opening-round win against South Sydney, the players were ready to commit after Wests Tigers invited their mentor, Joe Wehbe, to become involved with the team. “Football whisperer” Wehbe brought with him a massage therapist, Anthony Carbone, although resistance to their methods scuppered any chance of a permanent role on staff.
Wehbe has kept a low profile but his influence over the NRL’s elite players is immense. While much has been made of his relationship with the “big four”, the multi-millionaire property developer is a sounding board for a growing list of league and union stars. Wehbe is a close friend of prominent player agent Isaac Moses, with many of his clients seeing him in an unofficial capacity.
For many players, the first introduction to Wehbe is through touch football games during the off-season. Wehbe is keen to keep a low profile and the majority of the players are reluctant to speak about their relationship. However, Parramatta co-captain Tim Mannah, who is also managed by Isaac Moses, gave an intriguing insight into the mystery mentor.
“It’s different for everyone but he’s got a great footy head as well,” Mannah said.
“He’s not just the life coach everyone thinks he is, he understands football really well. He can sit down with someone and unlock parts of their game that can make them become better individual players.
“I’ve got a great relationship with him, I feel like there are plenty of players that have the same relationship.”
The Tigers tried to find a role for Wehbe on staff as an inducement for the “big four” to stay, but when the relationship unravelled the chances of Tedesco and Woods remaining dwindled.
“Anyone that is involved with Joe – and the media and football community in general would be surprised with the numbers that are strongly connected with Joe – a lot of us felt disappointed with the media reports that came out in regards to Joe,” Mannah said.
“A lot of it was written by people who don’t understand him as a person or what he does.
“He’s had a huge, positive impact on so many players, not only on the footy field but in life in general.
“There were a lot of players where it didn’t sit well with what they read, but anyone who knows him, the kind of person he is and how selfless he is, everything he does is to help others and is a part of a lot of players playing well.”
Asked how the Wehbe-player relationship worked, Mannah said: “It’s nothing official, he’s not involved with any team officially. It’s more a catch-up during the week. Everyone has their own thing. People go for extra massage or extra chiro during the week, I like to see Joe as well to tick all the boxes and make sure I have prepared as best I can before a game.”
Mannah also responded to suggestions Isaac Moses has an undue influence over clubs.
“He’s very good at his job and people can criticise the amount of power he has, but that comes down to him being a very smart operator,” he said.
“There’s a reason why good players want to be with him.”