THE Bidgee Hurricanes have pulled off a stunning mid-year signing coup with former Australian hard man Richard Villasanti joining the club for the rest of the Group 20 season.
Villasanti's arrival is one of the biggest names to land in the Group for the past 20 years and gives the Hurricanes an imposing one-two punch in the front row, with captain-coach Chris Bamford pushing his claims for buy of the season.
The former Kangaroo made his Group 20 debut last round, playing limited minutes off the bench for the Hurricanes in their 22-4 win against the TLU Sharks.
But despite the club admitting its latest star signing needs to do some work on his fitness, it is buzzing about the prospect of Villasanti being a howitzer against opposition defensive lines.
"We signed him through Mick Salafia, they played together up at Sawtell Panthers and with one of the Loudon's (Rohan) from West Wyalong and they won the grand final," Bidgee secretary David Cohen said.
"He's short of a gallop because he hasn't played all year but he's going to be primed for the semis, but really it's less than 12 months since he played in that grand final for Sawtell.
"But apparently Richie won the grand final basically on his own that day.
"Rohan had arranged for him to come down and stay a couple of days at West Wyalong, but we cut their grass."
The 32-year-old brings an impressive resume to the club beyond his Kangaroos tour appearance in 2003, having also played for the Junior Kiwis in 1999 before being named as a member of Tonga's World Cup squad in 2000.
Along the way there were 116 first grade NRL matches with Wests Tigers, New Zealand Warriors and the Cronulla Sharks.
However, a knee injury ended Villasanti's top grade career in 2007, but he has since played various levels of premier league football, earning high praise for his form at the Sawtell Panthers last year.
Despite his brief cameo for Bidgee last round Villasanti suffered a broken nose, with the Hurricanes bye this weekend helping their latest big name prove his fitness for their clash with Yenda in round 13.
Villasanti returned to Sydney to visit his family yesterday morning but is expected to return to the region on Friday, before what should be his first full training session as a Hurricane.
When asked where Villasanti is likely to slot into the starting side when he improves his fitness, Cohen said it did not matter as it would add depth to the dangerous looking side.
“I don’t know but it’s going to take the pressure off guys like Greg DePaoli and Brendan DePaoli, but it just adds depth as well with guys like Glenn Staines and Troy Preston playing some really good footy at the moment,” he said.