Ronnie Palmer, the game’s most recognised trainer, is finally coming home.
More than four decades after playing for Balmain, Palmer is the latest new face at the Wests Tigers.
The Tigers have been the most active club in the player market, with signings including Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino, Chris McQueen, Robbie Rochow, Corey Thompson, Mahe Fonua, Taane Milne and Benji Marshall.
However, their coaching staff will also have a fresh look with the addition of favourite son Brett Hodgson, while Palmer and former Broncos staffer Steve Hooper – currently in camp with the Kangaroos – head up the high-performance unit.
Palmer was head trainer at the Roosters for 24 years and more recently worked at Penrith and Parramatta. But the chance to return to the club he played for was too good to refuse.
“I’m going back to where it all began, as they say,” Palmer said. “My first year [as a player] at the Tigers was ’71 and I had five years there. Whenever I’m doing any team, as the song says, you’ve got to love the one you’re with.
“I played as a local junior at the Balmain club. I still live in the area, I’ve never moved out so it’s always been close to my heart.”
The Tigers are in a rebuilding phase, something Palmer knows plenty about. He helped Tigers coach Ivan Cleary with Penrith’s rebuild when they were at the foot of the mountains and also assisted Brad Arthur’s turnaround of Parramatta. Now the man affectionately known as “40-20”, “The Cougar” and “The Balmain Chalmer” is going back to where it all began.
“It was a tough decision because the Eels are obviously on the up, they’ve got a good coach and their CEO is a good mate of mine,” Palmer said.
“Things are really going to happen for the Eels and I had the chance to stay there. But this is another good challenge for me and I’ve had a good working relationship with Ivan for a long time. I had him as a player and we got together at Penrith and tried to create something there.
“It’s a fabulous challenge. They have some exciting young players and it’s refreshing.”
Cleary said the addition of Palmer and Hodgson to the joint-venture outfit would be of great benefit to the team’s preparations for the 2018 season.
“I’ve worked with Ronnie before as a player and coach,” Cleary said.
“His experience will be invaluable and he’s an ex-Tiger, so he will fit right in there as well. That’s where it all started for him and he’s always lived in the area.
“Brett Hodgson was part of the premiership-winning team and is a club favourite. He’s done really well in the coaching ranks in England. We’ve got some good additions and have kept some very capable staff as well ,so it’s a good mix.”