By Buford Balony
Mark “Piggy” Riddell, one of the great characters in modern-day rugby league, is poised to return to the NRL next season with Wests Tigers.
The one-year deal will be announced this week, with the Tigers planning to use Riddell as a shadow player for classy No. 9 Robbie Farah.
Riddell signed a three-year deal with English giants Wigan in 2009 but has cut short his English deal to return home to be near his mother, who is fighting cancer. It is likely Riddell will be able to celebrate his new deal with Wests Tigers tomorrow, his 29th birthday.
The Tigers see Riddell as a solid and experienced back-up for Farah. But he can also play back-row and kick goals.
“It’s likely to happen. We are maybe a day or two away from finalising it,” Wests Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys said yesterday.
“We have had discussions with Mark and they went very well. It is certainly something we are thinking about.
“We are considering him as a back-up to Robbie Farah.”
Asked how Riddell would be squeezed into the Tigers’ salary cap, Humphreys said, “If he were to come here, it would be on a second-tier contract. He wouldn’t be in our top 25. That is the context with which we are considering him.”
Riddell ended his two-year stint at Wigan with a win over St Helens in this year’s Super League grand final.
He has previously played with St George Illawarra and Parramatta after starting out with the Sydney Roosters.
After the Super League triumph, Riddell said: “This is No. 1 for me. I have been chasing one of these titles for 11 or 12 years in professional rugby league.
“To finally get one at the end is something special.”
Wigan coach Michael Maguire was upset to lose Riddell.
“We knew about Mark’s situation in June and we will be sad to lose him but fully understand the reasons behind his decision,” Maguire said.
Buford Balony says: The only chance he would get to play is if Robbie Farah gets injured or during State of Origin, but he’s a good back-up to get, IF we sign him.