Emry Pere knew when he lost his way with rugby league, the best place to go was back home.
The towering former North Queensland Cowboys forward was born in New Zealand but grew up on the Gold Coast, where he played league for the Helensvale Hornets and was part of the Gold Coast Titans development squads.
He signed with the Cowboys’ under 20s team in 2016 and made his NRL debut in 2020, playing two games for the Townsville-based club.
But this season, Pere is returning home. He has joined the Burleigh Bears Hostplus Cup squad in a bid to find his love of the game once again.
“It was a bit unknown at the back end of last season what decisions I was going to make. I had a few offers elsewhere but I felt like I wanted to come home… it was the best offer for me,” Pere said.
“I loved it as a kid. When you’re young, footy was more of a fun activity to do on the weekends with mates, compared to now where it’s semi-work.
“It’s still enjoyable but I’m just trying to find my passion for the game again. I felt like I’ve lost it along the way so that’s the main goal.
“I’m not too sure why it’s (lost). I’m still trying to figure that out myself but I did fall out of love with the game.
“That’s what brought me back home is trying to find the love and passion for the game again. Here is the perfect spot for me.”
Most of Pere’s family still live on the Gold Coast, including his parents, his brother James - who is in the Bears’ Hastings Deering Colts team – and his cousin, Kea, who also plays in Burleigh’s Cup side.
Pere’s size, skill and knowledge of the game will add a punch to Burleigh’s forward pack this year, especially with the losses of Tristan Powell (Melbourne Storm/Brisbane Tigers) and Nathaniel Peteru (Southport).
As well as having new coach Luke Burt at the helm, the Bears will also have some changes among their spine, with fullback – and 2022 Petero Civoniceva Medal winner - Taine Tuaupiki and five-eighth Josh Rogers moving on to the New Zealand Warriors and Brisbane Broncos respectively.
Halfback Guy Hamilton had also picked up a train-and-trial deal with the Sydney Roosters but has now returned to Burleigh for season 2023, while former NRL veteran Tyrone Roberts has also joined the club from the Broncos and Norths Devils.
Pere, who honed his skills in Townsville under the likes of Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean, has arrived at Burleigh as one of the most experienced players at the club – a leadership role that he is adapting to as pre-season progresses.
“Being around guys like Jason and that up north, you give them the lead and follow,” Pere said.
“Coming back here, it’s chop and change. Us older boys get to lead and everyone else can follow us.
“I can definitely bring leadership qualities. There’s two types of leadership qualities – vocal and actions. I bring a lot of actions-based leadership.
“There’s a mix of older and younger boys here so it’s easier on my behalf that guys like Pat Politoni and Sami Sauiluma can also guide all the boys to were Burty wants us.”
Pere – who now works as a labourer building ute trays in his first time out of a fulltime system – is hopeful that Burleigh can have another strong season after finishing as minor premiers in 2022.
But mostly he just wants to thrive again, back in his home environment.
“Hopefully I can have another successful season like they did last year,” Pere said.
“I’m 100 per cent starting to feel the love for it again. The boys have made me feel welcome so it’s a good start.
“I’m keen and eager to find my passion and love for the game again and I’m keen to see how 2023 pans out.”
Burleigh Bears 2023 gains and losses
Shallin Fuller (Gold Coast Titans), Heath Gibbs (Newcastle Knights), Matt Koellner (Tugun Seahawks), Toby McIntosh (Murwillumbah Mustangs), Nick O’Meley (Newcastle Knights), Emry Pere (North Queensland Cowboys), Tyrone Roberts (Brisbane Broncos), Tom Steadman (Northern Pride), Creedence Toia (Canterbury Bulldogs)
Brock Illett (retired), Blake Leary (retired), Api Noema-Matenga (work), Kai O’Donnell (Leigh Leopards), Nathaniel Peteru (Southport), Tristan Powell (Melbourne Storm), Josh Rogers (Brisbane Broncos), Kurtis Rowe (retired), Taine Tuaupiki (New Zealand Warriors)