It’s a cold and dreary Wednesday January night at Tapout Energy Stadium, the Easts Tigers Intrust Super Cup squad is training on the field and the A squad are in the gym. A cold wind blows and grey clouds overhead threaten to unload at any moment. Oblivious to the weather two children on scooters chase each other round the field as they wait for dad to finish training.
This scene is symbolic of the culture at the Tigers, a culture about football but also about family, about friends, about being inclusive.
One man who sums up this culture is Joel Romelo, who along with Brenton Horwood and Jake Foster make up the new faces at the Tigers in 2015, though Romelo is not strictly a new face. As a Melbourne Storm contracted player he spent much of 2014 as part of the Easts set up, travelling to Brisbane on game day, if he was lucky on the day before the game and then flying back to Melbourne straight after the game. It is a grind that all professional athletes know well.
At the end of 2014 Romelo was faced with a choice – spend another year in the Melbourne system chasing the NRL dream or return to the Tigers exclusively. Having played nearly thirty NRL games for the Panthers, Bulldogs and Storm and featured in the 2011 Indigenous All Stars team you would have to say that Romelo has, in one sense, been living the dream. Even so it was, in his words “an easy choice”, whilst he thoroughly enjoyed his time in Melbourne the opportunity to return home fulltime, to be close to friends and family was too good of an opportunity to turn down.
A family man with a partner and two young children a permanent shift to Easts allows him to live with his family, be closer to his extended family and play footy with some very good friends. Outside of football he enjoys working with Indigenous youth and a job opportunity in Brisbane was the final piece in the puzzle that made Easts the perfect place for Joel Romelo to be.
His journey to the Tigers effectively started in 2006 at Redcliffe when he was first coached by Craig Ingebrigsten in a Colts team that included current team mates Tom Butterfield, Foisa Peni and Dane Hogan as well as Bronco Matt Gillett. Like many of the Tigers players, Romelo will tell you that Ingebrigsten is one of the main reasons he is at the Tigers “he listens”, “he understands” are the kind of comments you here, it is an association that certainly helped convince Romelo that the culture at the Tigers was one he wanted to be a part of.
Fresh from the first prolonged break from football he has had in a number of years Joel Romelo comes across as relaxed, confident, fit and healthy. He is a man whose life is in balance and who is loving every minute. Easts Tigers fans have a lot to look forward to now that Joel Romelo has joined their team full time.