Former NRL bad boy Paul Carter could make his Cessnock Goannas debut as early as this weekend in a heated local derby against Kurri, after he was finally cleared to play for the club by the Country Rugby League.
Cessnock secretary Cherie Douglas confirmed that Country Rugby League provided the final clearance late last week, ending a long-running saga to get the former Titan, Rabbitoh and Rooster cleared to play in the Newcastle Rugby League.
Douglas said Country Rugby League’s approval and settling a fee with Group Two club Coffs Comets, who Carter was signed with last year, were the final steps in getting the forward cleared after NSW Rugby League declared they wouldn’t stand in his way.
“NSW Rugby League agreed it was a positive to put Paul into the competition, they’ve been extremely positive about us having Paul,” Douglas said.
While Cessnock coach Al Lantry hasn’t confirmed his side yet for Saturday’s bumper Charity Shield trial match against local rivals Kurri, Douglas said it would be “awesome to have that as his first game”.
“Personally, I’m anticipating he’ll play,” she said.
Douglas said Carter was in the process of getting employment in Cessnock and that his past off-field indiscretions didn't match with the person presenting himself at training.
“He’s a really good person that will hopefully start to show some good things on and off the field,” she said.
“I can’t see how he can be anything at all but good...the players are loving him, the old boys are loving him.”
Alongside the signing of former Knights winger Chanel Mata'utia and new coach Al Lantry, Douglas said there was a buzz around town.
“In Maitland, Kurri or Cessnock, the town really get behind you and I think the new boys will really enjoy that,” she said.
She said media exposure over the off-season had attracted 20 new sponsors to come on board.
“We’re all really excited,” she said.
“We can’t wait to get on the field.”