Wakeman: Ready To Hit My Peak
By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
While new St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has made plenty of signings for the Dragons' 2015 campaign, an ace up Mary's sleeve has come to hand in the form of Cutters recruit Shannon Wakeman.
Don't believe us? Watch his incredible 50 metre try here (from the 1:14 mark).
Such athleticism, from a front-rower nonetheless, highlights at the very least how Illawarra's 2014 Player of the Year is looking to make the most of the opportunities set to be granted to him over the next 12 months.
At only 24, and after an unsuccessful stint with the Panthers, the Dapto Canaries junior said he is ready to hit his peak as he returns to the club where he represented in the NYC.
"I feel like I'm getting there," Wakeman told NRL.com.
"I had a really good year this year and hopefully I can build on it with a pre-season under my belt and see how I go from there really, but I think I'm getting there. I'm feeling really good and I'm feeling confident."
Coach McGregor is also positive Wakeman is approaching the age necessary for a prop to hit his peak, as he told Dragons TV upon signing Wakeman to a one-year deal.
"It is funny with front-rowers, you don't know when they are going to be at their best," said McGregor.
"Most people will tell you that it is around 25, 26, 27 when they peak and Shannon is starting to hit that age now.
"His athleticism and body shape really suits the NRL. His speed over the first five metres is as quick as any.
"He can do standing backflips and all that sort of stuff [which is amazing] for a bloke weighing 110kg.
"Now he has to get the mental side of his game right, if he can do that then we have a very good athlete and ball runner on our hands."
With Wakeman having been in the rugby league system for several years, he doesn't believe this contract will be the end of his journey to the game's elite competition.
While Wakeman stated the obvious – that his dream is to play first grade – he doesn't think it will be his final shot at playing in the NRL if a call-up doesn't materialise in 2015.
"[Playing first grade] is something I've always wanted to do," said Wakeman.
"I've always wanted to play first grade so obviously I would be very happy to have finally accomplished something I have set out to do since I was a little kid.
"It would make me very proud.
"I haven't looked at it [being my final chance].
"This is just a really good opportunity for me.
"There could always be a setback or there could always be an injury, but I'm only 25 next year.
"I still think I have a couple of good years in me so I'm not too worried about that."
Wakeman's immediate goal though remains improving his fitness, something he prides himself on, as well as the defensive side of the game.
"I want to be able to compete with the fittest of the forwards so that will be one of my main goals and I obviously want to improve in areas where I need to be better at, like wrestling, my tackle technique and all that type of stuff," Wakeman said.
"My attack is fine – I'm pretty confident there – it's just a matter of learning the plays which will be hard because everything has changed now under Mary so we'll see how it goes."