Lima to fill forwards void: Soliola

Canberra big man Sia Soliola is backing new recruit Jeff Lima to help restore the club’s depleted forward stocks.

Much like Soliola himself did in 2015, Lima returns to the NRL from the English Super League desperate to finish his career on a high.

“He’s got a lot of experience, being down there at Souths and Melbourne, and he had a good time in Wigan as well over there in the Super League,” Soliola said.

“He knows what it takes to get ready for a game and he knows what it requires from a team. He’s good there with all the experience, not just on the footy but off the field as well.”

The Raiders lost former captain David Shillington and fellow front-rower Dane Tilse from an already inexperienced forward pack in 2015.

In their place they have signed Lima, who sandwiched two seasons with Wigan in 2011 and 2012 between a 120-game NRL career, before heading back to the Super League in 2015 with the Catalans Dragons.

Despite being 33, the evergreen forward managed 20 matches for the French club, averaging 80 metres per game while breaking through nine tackles.

The Raiders have also picked up Elliott Whitehead, an agile second-rower who has played five Tests for England and scored 11 tries in 30 matches for the Dragons last year, while also making 24 line-breaks.

“That’s why Ricky (Stuart) has brought us here, to balance out the experience levels,” Soliola says.

“We have that challenge and we will try and do the best we can just to help these boys get to where the club needs them to be.

“That’s why I’m really looking forward to Elliott Whitehead as well, because he’s quite a talent and Canberra should be excited about him.”

The trio follow in the footsteps of James Graham, Sam Burgess and Sam Tomkins who each established themselves in England before finding varying levels of success in the NRL.

“When I was playing with James Graham, I saw him come over here and he was doing the damage as well. It spurs a lot of us over in Super League that maybe we can come over here and try to mix it among the best,” Soliola said.

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