Warriors sign 'late bloomer' Aaron Pene from Melbourne Storm

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 8 Jun 2021, 9:42PM
Aaron Pene has been signed on a two-year contract. (Photo / Photosport)
Aaron Pene has been signed on a two-year contract. (Photo / Photosport)

Warriors sign 'late bloomer' Aaron Pene from Melbourne Storm

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 8 Jun 2021, 9:42PM

The Warriors' latest signing won't attract a ton of headlines, nor send fans into a frenzy, but could be important nonetheless.

The club confirmed on Tuesday they have picked up fringe Melbourne Storm forward Aaron Pene on a two-year contract from next season.

He has been signed on potential and promise, as the 25-year-old has only played three NRL matches, all interchange appearances off the bench.

It might appear a long shot, but anyone who can force their way into the Storm first grade team is doing well and that is the obvious attraction for the Warriors.

"Aaron has been in a great system for the last couple of years so he'll bring some good
experience from a top team to our club," said coach Nathan Brown.

"He's got great leg speed and power and he's now getting an opportunity to establish himself in Melbourne's NRL squad this season. The modern game suits Aaron down to the ground."

Of Samoan heritage, the 1.90m, 107kg Pene is the quintessential late bloomer. Growing up in West Sydney, Pene played a season of Under-20s for the Bulldogs as a 17-year-old, before two years at Parramatta in the junior grade.

He then switched to Penrith and had time in the New South Wales Cup, before a year playing park football after an ACL injury.

Pene worked as a lifeguard, storeman and baggage handler, before taking one last shot, signing to play with the Central Queensland Capras in the Intrust Super Cup.

His punt paid off, as he was picked up by the Storm in June 2019.

"It's a case of second time lucky for us with Aaron," said Warriors recruitment
manager Peter O'Sullivan.

"We attempted to get him in 2019 but didn't have a spot available at the time and he went to the Storm so it's great to get him on board this time.

"He's been a standout in the Intrust Super Cup and [he] possesses all the tools to be an extremely valuable player in the NRL."

There are some parallels with current Warriors prop Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, who also spent time in the Storm system and was 23 years old when he made his NRL debut last season.

Jesse Bromwich also took the long road to NRL success, playing country football in Orange before he was picked up by the Storm as a 19-year-old.

Pene will add depth and competition to the Warriors middle forward stocks, an area where they are yet to fully convince. Salary cap pressure at the Storm would have made the Warriors an enticing option, along with the prospect of regular first grade action.

The Warriors have had mixed success with Storm recruits.

Tohu Harris is one of the best signings in the club's history and James Maloney had a spectacular impact, while Ryan Hoffman had a solid two years. But centre Dane Nielsen didn't live up to expectations and Todd Lowrie's impact was underwhelming.

Pene has been with Melbourne's feeder club the Brisbane Tigers since 2019. In six games this season he has averaged 130 metres a game.

He made his NRL debut against the Dragons last September.

He was used off the bench against Brisbane and Gold Coast in the club's last two matches. Against the Broncos he made 128 metres from 11 runs with five tackle breaks.

text by Michael Burgess, NZ Herald