Little more than an hour after playing his first game in almost eight months, it was announced Ben Matulino will join Wests Tigers on a three-year deal from 2018.
The 23-Test Kiwi made his comeback from a knee injury in the ANZAC Day loss to Melbourne, Matulino’s 197th first-grade game for the Warriors.
The bruising veteran is seen as a replacement for reportedly Canterbury-bound Tigers captain and NSW Origin prop Aaron Woods. Matulino will link with Ivan Cleary, who gave him his maiden NRL call-up in 2008.
— Liam Cox (@LiamCox_TV) April 25, 2017
The Warriors released the following statement:
The Vodafone Warriors have confirmed tonight that prop Ben Matulino has informed the club he will depart at the end of the season to join the Wests Tigers.
The 28-year-old made his 197th NRL appearance in his first outing of the season in the Vodafone Warriors’ Anzac Day encounter with the Storm in Melbourne tonight.
The long-serving Matulino, who is returning from an injury lay-off following knee surgery, informed club management at the weekend that he had decided to take up an offer from Wests Tigers. He said he wanted to experience living in Sydney with his family and felt he couldn’t turn down the offer.
Matulino told football staff and his team-mates of his decision in the dressing room after tonight’s match.
He said his focus is on finishing his last season with the Vodafone Warriors on a high after starting his NRL career with the club in 2008.
The Vodafone Warriors wish Matulino and his family all the best for the future.
Confirmed. Ben Matulino will finish with the Vodafone Warriors at the end of the season.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) April 25, 2017
Wests Tigers followed quickly with their own statement:
Wests Tigers are pleased to announce the signing of New Zealand International Ben Matulino for the coming three seasons.
The new deal will see Matulino join Wests Tigers until at least the end of the 2020 NRL season.
Matulino has played 196 games for the New Zealand Warriors since making his debut in 2008 and has represented his county on 23 occasions.
The 28 year old front rower will join Wests Tigers at the end of the current season.
Wests Tigers Head Coach Ivan Cleary said he was looking forward to welcoming Matulino to the club.
“Ben has proven himself as an elite front rower in both the NRL and International arena,” said Cleary. “We welcome Ben as an integral part of Wests Tigers’ future.”
Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said that Matulino will be a great addition to the playing squad.
“Ben has been a part of the Warriors and Kiwi squads for a number of years and has shown himself to be a leader both on and off the field,” said Pascoe. “We look forward to him bringing his experience to Wests Tigers for the coming three seasons.
“It’s great to have a player of Ben’s experience, both in the NRL and International arenas, decide to commit his future to Wests Tigers,” he said.
OFFICIAL — Wests Tigers are pleased to announce the signing of New Zealand international Ben Matulino!
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) April 25, 2017