THE Group Seven premiership hopes of Albion Park-Oak Flats have been bolstered by the addition of former New Zealand international Chase Stanley.
"It's a massive coup for the club because it's been ages since someone in Group Seven has signed a former international player," Eagles co-coach Steven Johnson said.
The 31-year-old outside back started his rugby league career with the St George Illawarra Dragons, making his way through their junior system before making his first grade debut against Newcastle in round two of the 2007 NRL season.
That was the first of his 44 appearances for the Red V between 2007 and 2009.
He then played eight games with the Melbourne Storm before returning to the Dragons for 32 more fixtures.
A 29-game stint at Canterbury-Bankstown followed, as did 27 matches with the Toronto Wolfpack - the last being against Huddersfield on March 11, 2020.
During this period, Endeavour Sports High School alumnus played twice for the New Zealand national side in 2007, as well as pulling on the New Zealand Maoris jersey on two occasions.
This sort of resume is sure to add plenty of firepower to Johnson and Ian Jones' Eagles, who are 2-1, heading into Saturday's home clash against premiers Gerringong at Centenary Field.
"It [the signing] all sort of came about as Chase is good mates with Rodney Coates - with them playing a fair bit of junior footy together," Johnson said.
"He's been training with us for more than a month now and has been champing at the bit to get out there and play but we had to wait on a couple of clearances, including from Toronto, to go through before he could.
"But with those going through recently, Chase looks set to play his first game for us on Saturday."
Much like the signing of former NRL star Luke Patten was in 2019, Johnson admits Stanley's inclusion has been massive for the maroon and whites.
"He brings so much experience to our squad and all the younger boys, especially the outside backs, look up to him," he said.
"With Chase setting such a high standard at training, everyone has been jumping out of their skins to try and match it with him.
"You can see he's played at the top level by the way he just approaches the game - everything he does is at 100 per cent and that's why he's achieved what he has so far in his career.
"He's a monster and will massively help our squad's chances of reaching the semi-finals for the first time in nine years - to me, this is the strongest Park side we've had since our last premiership in 2012.
"We've made steps forward the past few weeks by not falling back on old habits and actually playing to our potential for the full 80 minutes.
"We know Gerringong will be a big test but I'm confident in our boys' abilities - it's games like this you need to win if you want to be considered at premiership contender."
The round five clash, which will also see Tom Warner return for the Eagles, kicks off at 4.30pm.
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