Wicks nears end of long road to redemption
DANNY Wicks is set to make his NRL comeback on Friday night after five years in the wilderness.
The 29-year-old was yesterday named Parramatta Eels' 18th man for the second week in a row but is set to replace suspended Junior Paulo - who has contested his grade three dangerous throw charge - in the 17-man squad to take on Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium - the same venue and opponent as his last NRL game for Newcastle Knights in a semi-final in 2009.
It has been a long road to redemption for Wicks, whose four-year suspension under World Anti-Doping Authority guidelines ended in September last year.
Thrown a lifeline by the Eels, the man who played a handful of matches for the Clayton Cup-winning Grafton Ghosts side of 2010 before serving a jail sentence has reportedly trained the house down throughout the pre-season.
He played for Eels' feeder club Wentworthville Magpies in NSW Cup round one and despite losing 30-16 to North Sydney Bears, he impressed enough to the warrant the call-up.
"He looks a million dollars and has obviously been doing a lot of hard work to get into the position he's in," Ghosts football manager Joe Kinnane said.
"He's done his time and it's good to see he's turned his life around and looking to make the best of it.
"People go one way or the other when this sort off thing happens and obviously he's taken his chance with both arms.
"He comes from a very respected family and no doubt they'll be very proud of his achievements."
Wicks' younger brother Brett, 28, said he was not surprised it had only taken until round two for the call-up to first grade.
"It's good that he'll get his opportunity," Brett said.
"He's definitely keen to be back playing football. He knows his ability and knows he can play with the best of them."
Brett spoke with Danny after the NSW Cup clash.
"He said he went all right. Didn't play 100 per cent but good to get the boots back on, that's for sure," Brett said.
"I haven't seen him since Christmas but from the pictures in the newspapers it looks like he's only getting fitter."
Brett underwent his own transformation at Christmas and as a result will find himself in the front row for Grafton Ghosts in Group 2 Rugby League this season.
"I was about 94 kilos last year, now I'm 103," he said.
"Benny (McLennan) put me up in the front row. I had my first run there in the trial at Murwillumbah on the weekend and I don't mind it actually."