Joel Edwards continued to shine on and off the field in 2014 and celebrated his second year in the Nation’s Capital with a three year contract extension which will see the affable red-head in lime green until the end of 2017.
Since joining the Raiders from the Knights in 2013, Edwards has been welcomed with open arms by the ACT public due to his wholehearted displays on the field and his willingness to immerse himself in the ACT community off the field.
Following the departure of Joel Thompson to the Dragons, Edwards held the ambition to fill his void in the Raiders starting side in 2014.
An impressive pre-season effort and form in the trials saw Coach Ricky Stuart select the 25 year old to partner Josh Papalii in the starting second row for the Round 1 clash against the North Queensland Cowboys.
He would retain the position until Round 6 when he was forced to sit on the sidelines following a concussion sustained a week prior against the Penrith Panthers.
It was around this time that the club announced the re-signing of Edwards until the end of 2017.
“It’s an honour to be part of such a proud club and I look forward to another three years here playing for a team who I know is on the up,” Edwards said. “It’s hard being away from family and friends but I’ve made a home here in Canberra and the club has become a family for me.
“I feel my game is improving each week and under Ricky Stuart I think I can develop it further and become a better player.”
Raiders CEO Don Furner said having Edwards at the club for three more years was a huge positive and said he looked forward to seeing him develop as a player in the future.
“Joel is a fantastic re-signing for us as he is one of the hardest workers both on and off the field here at the Raiders,” Furner said. “He’s another player we see as a key part of our success moving forward and we’re thrilled he is remaining with the club for a further three seasons.”
Edwards returned in the starting role following his one week absence however he was relegated to the interchange bench in Round 10 with Stuart preferring to start with Papalii and Jarrad Kennedy.
The Cessnock Goannas junior then unfortunately suffered an injury to his cheekbone which would keep him sidelined for the next three fixtures.
Whilst Edwards was unable to regain his starting second rower position on a regular basis, he was a solid contributor to the Raiders for the remainder of the year and filled in admirably at lock when Shaun Fensom’s season ended due to a ruptured ACL.
The pain that Edwards inflicts on the field to opponents due to his outstanding defensive technique and timing, is juxtaposed with the kindness and approachability he has off it in regards to his interactions in the community.
Edwards has taken it upon himself to get involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities and through a mentoring program at a local high school on a personal level without the profile and hype that comes with major events. This has been his most rewarding experience as he regularly goes out during his spare time to visit kids either in hospital or in schools to try and lift their spirits in any way he can.
Symbolic of Joel’s kind heart is the many special relationships Joel has with Raiders Members and Sponsors. Joel is constantly being asked to donate merchandise and his time to different events and as such does so without question and always out of his own pocket.
Giving up much of his spare time, Joel has worked tirelessly with the Starlight Foundation, Cerebral Palsy Alliance and St Johns Care to help provide a smile to the faces of those less fortunate.
As such, Edwards has been justifiably nominated for the Ken Stephen Medal.
Off the field, Edwards achieved another highlight when he became engaged to his lovely partner Kate.
Looking towards 2015, Edwards will again strive to consolidate a starting place in the Raiders back-row. Currently on 87 career games and 43 Raiders games, Edwards is likely to reach his 100th NRL game and 50th Raiders game next season.
Average Minutes: 55
Try Assists: 1
Line Breaks: 2
Line Break Assists: 1
Tackle Breaks: 13
Average Metres: 67.4
Average Tackles: 24.9
Kick Metres: 2 kicks for 20 metres