The NSW Waratahs have secured experienced second rower, Sam Wykes for the upcoming Vodafone Super Rugby season – signing a one-year deal to join Rob Penney’s squad.
Originally from Sydney and once a part of the NSW Waratahs Academy, Wykes has come full circle after a playing career that has featured stints both in Australia and Japan.
Part of an end of season tour of the United Kingdom in 2006, Wykes earnt three NSW caps (#1545) making his debut against the Northampton Wanderers.
He would eventually go on to make his Super Rugby debut with the Western Force the following year, making 87 appearances over seven seasons for the Perth-based franchise.
The towering lock then made his way north to Japan, turning out 21 times for the Sunwolves alongside stints with both the Panasonic Wild Knights and Coca Cola Red Sparks in the Top League.
NSWRU General Manager of Rugby Tim Rapp said that Wykes’ experience would be invaluable amongst a young, eager pack of forwards.
“We’re very excited about the crop of young talent we’ve got coming through at the moment, but it’s important you balance that with experienced guys like Sam,” Rapp said.
“He’s played a lot of rugby at the top level and he’ll have plenty of experience to share across the squad.
“Throughout the early part of his career Sam developed within our pathway in New South Wales and it’s nice to have him back in sky-blue.”
NSW Waratahs Head Coach, Rob Penney said he was looking forward to linking up with Wykes for the 2021 pre-season.
“Sam’s a player I’ve had an awareness of from his time in the Top League and we feel he can contribute significantly to our group next year,” Penney said.
“Having been part of the Waratahs environment before, Sam understands the significance of the jersey and what it means to represent this great state.
“A really experienced guy, strong at the set-piece, we’re excited to have him on board for 2021.”
Wykes said he was looking forward to joining the club he trained with in his youth.
“I was here [at the Academy] in my early days and it’s nice to be back and involved in a pretty exciting time for the club,” Wykes said.
“I had one more year left in Japan, but like many others COVID cut that short for me.
“There were opportunities to head back overseas, but the opportunity to return home with my family and be around friends I grew up with for a time in my career made it an easy choice.
“It’s [returning to NSW] also about giving back to the game that’s given me so much over my career. I’ve been coaching in some schools, working with juniors and subbies teams during my time off and it’s something I’m excited to do more of over the course of next year.
“There’s plenty to like about the style of rugby that Rob is trying to play and you could see that coming together at the end of this season – I’m grateful at the opportunity they’ve provided to be a part of that.”
Wykes will turn out for West Harbour in the Shute Shield.