Josh Reynolds to bring 'family club' values to Tigers

Josh Reynolds is pictured at Concord Oval in his new West Tigers jersey on 10 November, 2017. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Josh Reynolds is pictured at Concord Oval in his new West Tigers jersey on 10 November, 2017. Photo: Brook Mitchell

He may have left the "family club", but Josh Reynolds wants to bring those same values to Wests Tigers.

Reynolds, the highest-profile of the joint-venture outfit's recruits, reported for training for the first time during the week. The former NSW five-eighth admitted it was "a little bit weird" donning the black, white and gold after being a Bulldog for so long, but is embracing the challenge of taking his game to another level.

One of Belmore's favourite sons, Reynolds is renowned for his ability to bring his teammates together. So much so that James Graham, in an attempt to keep him at Canterbury, offered to sacrifice the pay rise he was entitled to - believed to be a six-figure amount under the new collective bargaining agreement - to retain Reynolds.

The man credited with being the social glue at Belmore wants to ensure he becomes just as tight with his new teammates.

"When I got my first bit of gear it was a little bit weird, it wasn't blue and white," Reynolds said in his first interview in Tigers colours.

"I don't go home and say, 'I can't believe I'm in this'. I'm going to take it with both hands. I know I grew up in Belmore, but I want to create the same concept here. I'm doing what I love, which is playing rugby league - it's just for a different club. It doesn't mean I'm going to be any less passionate about who I play for. My whole family used to go for them growing up. There are ties there.

"The club is on the up with the type of players they've bought and bringing Ivan [Cleary] in will change the club. The fans of the Wests Tigers haven't - this is no disrespect to the players that have played - but they haven't seen semi-finals in a while. It would be nothing better than to come here with a few new boys and try and do that and try and create a great culture."

Tigers fans are anxious to see the new-look Reynolds-Luke Brooks halves combination in action for the first time in their season opener against the Roosters. However, Reynolds is already allowing himself to think a little further ahead.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't having a little think about that game," he said of the round 12 clash with former club Canterbury.

"The old cliche is I take it like any other game, but it's definitely going to be weird coming up against them because I've played with a lot of them for a good five or six years.

"It's going to be interesting and fun. Before will the hardest bit, but when it kicks off it will be just another game. They will probably get into me. [Laughing] I don't get into people on the field, so I'll just take it on the chin and walk off. While it's going to be hard, I'll make sure it's fun because in 20 years, when we have a beer down the track, we'll have a laugh about how I did something crazy or outrageous in the game."

Reynolds described the 2017 season as a "draining year for me", the result of a series of injuries, speculation about his future and the Bulldogs missing the finals. He was courted by Cronulla and the appeal of going to a team full of superstars held appeal. However, he was impressed by Cleary's pitch and relished the chance to take on a greater leadership role at the Tigers.

"I feel here at the Tigers, the team comes first," he said.

"No one is better than anyone, it doesn't matter if you've played 30 Origins or you're debuting. I think that's a great culture and message to get across to the boys. Everyone takes that on board. Everyone takes leadership and ownership, that's the best way to be.

"For me at the Bulldogs, I felt I was a bit the same. There were so many good players around me, I just had to do my job. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. Maybe it's because I'm getting on in footy, I'm 28 years old, and I definitely want to become an influence in the team, a bit of a leader."

The man affectionately dubbed "Grub" is the first to concede he isn't the silkiest player. His greatest strengths are his energy and passion, qualities that help bring his teammates closer off the field. The Bulldogs junior was stunned by Graham's gesture and wants to be a uniting force at Concord.

"Away from the game, that's the most humbling thing, the most amazing thing that anyone has ever done," Reynolds said of Graham.

"I never knew about it, that was the best thing. Even when we had a couple of beers lately, he didn't mention it. It's something he wanted to do. It's weird, from the outside looking in at a lot of clubs, a lot of players look at it as just a job. That's fine, that's the way they do it. But for me it's about creating friendships because when footy is done you don't come to training every day. So you don't see those mates every day. It's about creating [lasting] friendships.

"That's what I was like at the Dogs. It didn't mind to me if I had to see the boys out west or go out to Cronulla, it's what I like doing. I've always been like that, I like being around good people and creating friendships. I want to do that at the Tigers. They have accepted me so well. Honestly, it feels like I've been here for a couple of years already in two days. Not the footy stuff, just being able to muck around with a few of the boys."

While it may take time to get used to the sight of Reynolds in a Tigers jersey, his family has history with the club.

"My grandparents lived in Annandale," he said.

"My mum grew up there before they moved to Belmore. My cousins were all Tigers fans before I started playing for the Dogs. So now they have to dust off their old jerseys and get them out at Leichhardt Oval."

This story Josh Reynolds to bring 'family club' values to Tigers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.