June 25, 2024

Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall has emphasized that Stefano Utoikamanu remains a key part of the club’s long-term plans, despite concerns about his potential departure to a rival team. Utoikamanu, a powerhouse prop at 23, has attracted attention from other clubs, particularly after the news of James Fisher-Harris’s departure from the Panthers.

Stefano Utoikamanu will attract plenty of interest from rivals if the Tigers fail to make the finals. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

While Utoikamanu has a year remaining on his contract, there are clauses allowing him to leave if the Tigers fail to make the finals this season. However, these clauses can be voided if he participates in two State of Origin matches by the season’s end. Despite missing out on a recent training camp, his performance on the field speaks volumes, with an impressive average of 112 meters per game.

Marshall reiterated the club’s commitment to Utoikamanu, highlighting his importance to their future plans. With discussions with other clubs prohibited until November, Marshall remains confident in retaining the talented prop.

“I believe it’s arguably the strongest form he’s displayed throughout his career.
There’s been chatter about his potential selection for Origin, and rightfully so, given his consistent performances.
During the pre-season, I observed a noticeable rise in his intensity, which laid the foundation for his impressive season. We’re extremely pleased with his progress.
He’s experiencing personal fulfillment with imminent fatherhood, and alongside that, his on-field performance speaks volumes.
He’s undeniably among the top front-rowers in the league presently, and we view him as a significant asset for the club’s future. We’ve communicated this sentiment to him.”

Utoikamanu faces tough competition from the current middle players, and Manly’s Taniela Paseka is also a contender after realizing his physical dominance over opponents.

Utoikamanu made his State of Origin debut last year but is playing even better in 2024. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

“If he gets the nod, he’ll perform admirably. He possesses the size, power, speed, and strength necessary for Origin,” remarked former NSW prop Aaron Woods.

“He’s always had the potential to reach his current level, but it’s been a mental journey for him.

“Once he fully embraces his size and power, he can achieve anything.”

Meanwhile, Marshall remains unfazed by the upcoming clash with Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai, who will join the Tigers next season. He also isn’t concerned about his team’s remarkable upset over the premiers in Bathurst last year.

“We haven’t even discussed last year,” Marshall commented after the Tigers snapped their losing streak in the rain twelve months ago.

“We have a different squad, and so do they. Ultimately, on the day, you have to show up and perform, so whatever occurred last year is irrelevant.”

Taniela Paseka has dominated up front for the Sea Eagles. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *