Robbie Farah’s fight to keep his hooking role at Wests Tigers has became officially tougher, with Matt Ballin signing with the NRL club.
The Manly stalwart had been linked to a move to the Tigers and that was confirmed by the joint venture on Tuesday along with another option at No.9 for embattled coach Jason Taylor, Dene Halatau.
Ballin was unwanted by new Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett after the two-time premiership winner re-signed with the club for two more seasons earlier this year.
The 31-year-old has penned a two-year deal with the Tigers, while Halatau, 32, has been retained by them for the 2016 season.
Given the reduction in the number of interchanges allowed per game in 2016 from 10 to eight, hookers who can play 80 minutes will be at a premium and Ballin is certainly that.
Farah has made a career of playing entire matches but Taylor has repeatedly refused to guarantee the NSW State of Origin hooker a first grade berth in 2016.
Taylor said he was “delighted” at the signing of Ballin and retention of Halatau.
“We have been working really hard to strengthen depth at the club,” he said.
“Bringing Matt into the fold means we currently have three specialist hookers in the full-time squad – the same number we had during the 2015 season.
“As a result, we are well-placed should injury or suspension arise, whilst also ensuring there is healthy competition for positions in the club’s first grade side.
Tigers boss Justin Pascoe was equally effusive in welcoming Ballin.
“We have managed to negotiate a very favourable deal with Manly-Warringah to release Matt from his contract,” he said.
“Matt is a premiership-winning player who will no doubt bring experience and enthusiasm to the club.”
Ballin was a part of the 2008 and 2011 premiership winning sides at Brookvale, playing 217 games over 11 years.
He said he wasn’t leaving the club on bad terms.
“I have really enjoyed my years at Manly. It’s a terrific club and I have played with some extraordinary players and I have been fortunate to have won two premierships,” Ballin said.
“The friendships I have made will last a lifetime. I’d like to thank all of my coaches and the support staff for making me the player I am today.”