NEWCASTLE Falcons have unveiled Ryan Shortland as their latest recruit, with the 25-year-old outside-back joining for the start of pre-season in June.
The 6ft 1in signing is equally at home on the wing or at outside centre, and has starred for Otago in this season’s National Provincial Championship in New Zealand.
Born on Kiwi soil but raised in Sydney, Shortland initially rose to prominence in rugby league – featuring for both the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors before switching to the 15-man code.
A former Super 14 cap for the Highlanders, he narrowly missed out on selection for this season’s newly-renamed Super 15 competition, despite being included in their wider training squad.
Currently with New South Wales in Australia and starring for their second-string, Shortland runs out for the Junior Waratahs tomorrow as they take on the Brumbies, having featured in the Pacific Rugby Cup for the Sydney-based side.
The physical wide man will likely slot into the Falcons squad at the expense of Gcobani Bobo, with the former Springbok set to move on in the summer after a largely disappointing spell on Tyneside.
Head coach Alan Tait has made no bones about his quest to further bolster the Newcastle back-line but, for the meantime, is just happy to have secured his man in Shortland.
“We have been looking for a few months now for somebody to give us a real physical threat down the wing and outside centre channels, and we believe we have got a good acquisition on board with Ryan,” said Tait.
An added bonus for the Falcons is that Shortland is English-qualified on ancestral grounds, meaning that his arrival will not jeopardise the club’s bid to maximise the funds available from the Rugby Football Union for those clubs making players available to the English national side.
The Falcons’ baffling new policy of not announcing the length of players’ contracts means that fans have been left in the dark as to the length of Shortland’s stay on Tyneside, although a club source confirmed to The Journal that the deal was for more than just a single year.
The visa application process is already under way, with the club expecting the player’s arrival in time for the start of pre-season training in June. “He’s a dangerous attacking threat who we have known about for a while, and we have also done our usual job of looking into his character and getting a really comprehensive background on him,” said Tait.
“All the reports have been good, and he’s a very physical player at a great age who is as keen as mustard. We are looking to sharpen up our back-line for next season, and Ryan gives us the sort of physical edge that we are after. His offloading game is superb, as you would expect with coming from a rugby league background, but his running and scoring record have impressed us as well.”
Shortland joins Gloucester scrum-half Jordi Pasqualin and rugby league wing Rikki Sheriffe in joining the Falcons’ influx for next season, although Sheriffe could even be in line for a shock first-team debut this Sunday at Saracens.
The Yorkshire has been learning the rugby union ropes at National One level for Tynedale in recent weeks, but has been pulled out of their squad for tomorrow’s home date with Reduth, fuelling speculation of a shock first-team appearance.
It remains to be seen whether or not the ex-Bradford Bull will feature in the match-day 23 at Vicarage Road, but a debut cannot be ruled out altogether after scoring on his last two outings for the Falcons Development Team against Northampton and Leicester.