Knights grant Sims an early release

Korbin Sims

In a surprise move, the Newcastle Knights have granted forward Korbin Sims an early release from his contract.

With rumours abound that he is set to join either the South Sydney Rabbitohs or the Brisbane Broncos, the club made a careful decision about the future of Sims.

“The Club carefully considered the request and following further discussions with Korbin and his management have decided to grant his release,” CEO Matt Gidley said.

“We thank Korbin for his contribution to the Club and wish him and his family all the best for the future.”

Sims joined the club in 2011 and played 76 NRL games as the Knights look to build upon their squad for 2017.

“The Club is in a very strong position to enter the player market and improve our squad for 2017 and beyond,” Gidley concluded.

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 8: Newcastle Knights

Another installment in our series as we preview the Newcastle Knights and what we view as their greatest team ever. They have also been privileged to have tremendous players donning the red and blue Knights jersey as well as several premierships to their name. Despite some lean years at present, their past is rich.

Once again, we must mention, the side is made up of players that have played almost exclusively for the Newcastle Knights throughout their career.

Without further hesitation, here is the Knights side we have chosen as our greatest 17 ever:

1. Kurt Gidley – The Knights won the 2001 NRL premiership but it was a game that Gidley did not play in. His first official game came a few weeks earlier in Rd 24 of the same season before he played in the Knights side that lost the 2002 World Club Challenge.
From there, he slowly became a regular of the side and etched himself into modern Knights folklore. He won the Knights’ first ever golden point game in 2004 but he unfortunately went on to miss most of the 2005 season due to injury. His first representative honour came with the NSW Country side in the City v Country game before he then represented the Prime Minister’s XIII.
After enjoying a solid 2007 season, Gidley was rewarded with Origin duties and in 2008, led the club in both point-scoring and try-scoring. His season was so good that he won the club’s player of the year award. With the departure of Danny Buderus, Gidley was made captain ahead of the 2009 season.
The following year in 2009, he was also named captain and fullback of the NSW side before playing in the NRL All-Stars game in successive years (2010 and 2011).
Gidley then continued to perform and impress for the Knights and forged a reputation as a loyal, hard-working player. His time at the Knights eventually came to an end after 251 games, 80 tries and 452 goals, before he headed to English side the Warrington Wolves where he currently plays.

2. Robbie O’Davis – Growing up in Toowoomba, O’Davis played for the Knights his entire career. Toiling away and performing for the first few years of his career, he played both wing and fullback for the duration of it. At the height of the Super League war, O’Davis played for both the Maroons and the Australian side, impressing for both when given the opportunity.
A popular player among the fans, O’Davis was impressive in the Knights 1997 ARL grand final and won the Clive Churchill Medal as a result. The following year was the opposite, however, after O’Davis as well as team-mate Wayne Richards were suspended for a whopping 22 weeks after testing positive to a banned anabolic steroid.
Slowly making his way back into the side and regaining the trust, O’Davis was also a member of the Knights 2001 premiership success and then in their 2002 World Club Challenge clash.
After a couple more seasons with the club, he retired at the end of the 2004 NRL season.

3. Matt Gidley – Regarded as one of the greatest players to ever don the Newcastle Knights jersey, right from his junior days through to his NRL career, Gidley played solely for the Knights. A youngster at the Wests club in the Newcastle rugby league competition, Gidley’s junior career actually began as a five-eighth. However, with the arrival of Matthew Johns, he was shifted to centre where he went on to forge a fantastic career.
In the end, his debut at the club came in 1996 and from there, Gidley never looked back as he made numerous appearances for both New South Wales and the Australian Kangaroos. He was a crucial player in the Knights charge towards the 2001 NRL premiership and like many other players, he became a very important player and a fan favourite at the club.
One major trait to Gidley’s game was his glorious flick pass that captivated fans and set up numerous tries. His partnership with Timana Tahu became a focal point for much of Gidley’s career as the two developed a playing bond at both club and state level.
He continued to perform well and eventually retired from the NRL and the Knights in 2006 becoming just the fourth Knights player to play 200 games. Gidley finished his Knights career with 221 games and 68 tries.
He then had a stint with St Helens in the Super League. His time with the Knights was not finished, though, as he joined the club as a Business Development Manager in 2011. Later on in the year, he was appointed as the CEO of Football by the Hunter Sports Group.

4. Mark Hughes – All teams need honest, hard-working players and Mark Hughes was all that and more. A genuine person, he had heart, passion and determination for the Knights team for the duration of his time there. A Kurri Kurri junior, Hughes joined the Knights during the 1997 season and enjoyed immediate success, playing on the wing in the club’s 1997 ARL premiership victory.
Eventually, Hughes was then shifted to centre where he enjoyed further premiership success, this time in 2001 when the Knights won the NRL premiership. That same year, he played for NSW in all three games, all at fullback.
As his Knights career wore on, the injuries became more frequent and hampered Hughes, his game and did not enable him to achieve the consistency he would have liked. At the end of the 2005 season, he departed the club and spent a season with Catalans. Knights fans, former players and the team itself gave him much needed support when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. Fighting hard against the illness, he set up the Mark Hughes Foundation and continues to make a recovery to this day.

5. Adam Macdougall – Whilst we all know and love Macdougall as a tremendous player for the Knights, his NRL career actually began with the Sydney Roosters in 1995. It was not until 1997 that he joined the Knights and enjoyed immediate success, with the club winning the competition. His good form continued in 1998 and he was rewarded with a maiden Origin jumper for New South Wales. However, later that year, he tested positive to stimulants Ephedrine and Amfepramone indicating the possible use of steroids and he was subsequently banned for 11 games.
It was later revealed that a prior head injury had damaged Macdougall’s pituitary gland and it was imperative that he take Sustanon 250 which included a banned steroid.
After serving his suspension, Macdougall returned to the Knights in 1999 and after just a couple of games, he was selected once again for New South Wales. Many believe that his two best seasons came in 2000 and 2001 where Macdougall scored 30 tries in 41 games before starring for NSW in their Origin series win in 2000. He also played in the 2000 World Cup Final and then won a second premiership with the Knights in 2001. Continuing to perform solidly for the club, he made a surprising move when he departed and signed with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Playing with the Bunnies for three seasons, MacDougall then returned to the Knights in 2007 and enjoyed a further 6 seasons with the club.
In the end, Macdougall played 158 games for the Knights club and in 2011, he announced his retirement.

6. Matthew Johns – The eldest of the Johns brothers, Matthew was raised in Cessnock and played his junior footy in the region before joining the Knights in 1991. He made his NRL debut in 1992 and played alongside his brother in the halves for nine years. Forming a sound combination with his brother, their play led to success during the 1997 ARL season when they won the premiership before doing it for a second time in 2001, winning the NRL premiership. A part of the 1995 Rugby League World Cup squad, Johns enjoyed success with the Knights and for Australia but played few games with the Blues.
In the end, after 176 games with the club, Johns departed and signed with the Wigan Warriors for the 2001 season. Performing strongly there, he was involved in a grand final which Wigan lost but he returned to the NRL for one more season with the Sharks.
Injuries to his shoulder and neck forced him to retire. He remains a vocal figure in the NRL world and is currently a key member of the Fox Sports NRL team.

7. Andrew Johns – In the eyes of many, he is the greatest player to have ever donned the Knights jersey. A play-maker, a visionary and a tremendous player, the Knights won countless games and two premierships on the back of the form of Andrew Johns.
Like his brother Matt, Johns played his junior footy in Cessnock and it was clear that he had natural ability. At just 15, the Knights signed him onto their junior ranks and he would not have to wait long for a first-grade appearance as injury to the incumbent halfabck saw Johns rewarded with an opportunity. He made a tremendous first impression as he scored 23 points and won the man-of-the-match award.
In 1995, Johns had the chance to play for Australia at the Rugby League World Cup and made the most of that opportunity as he won a man-of-the-match award playing at hooker and was then named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. From here, he became a mainstay across club, state and international teams.
The 1997 grand final could have been very different had Johns not played, as he was entering the game with an apparent rib injury. However, the club stalwart played and was the difference, leading the side to premiership victory that season. He was even better in the 1998 season as the club lost just five games and Johns was instrumental in that fantastic season. He was named the 1998 Dally M Player of the Year.
1999 was much of the same for the play-maker as another impressive season saw him take out successive Dally M Medal’s, the first player to go back-to-back in this regard at the time since Mick Cronin in 1977 and 1978. Named captain after the retirement of Paul Harragon and the departure of his brother, Johns continued to perform and again guided the side to glory, this time in the 2001 NRL premiership.
There was no stopping Johns as in 2002, he continued to impress and perform magnificently. Unfortunately, injury struck that year, after he broke a bone in his back in the finals, ending the Knights hopes of winning the premiership that year. His form throughout the season had been so good, that he won a third Dally M Medal, a feat that has only been replicated by Johnathan Thurston.
This one injury culminated in a turbulent time for Johns over the next few seasons. He suffered a serious neck injury that threatened his career in 2003, injured his ACL and was out for most of the 2004 season and then broke his jaw during the 2005 season.
After that, speculation was rife that Johns would consider a switch to Union but he eventually opted to remain in rugby league and ended up being the shining light that NSW needed to win an Origin series in 2005. He had a short-term deal with the Warrington Wolves after agreeing to re-sign with the Knights.
He then broke a long-standing rugby league record in Australia in 2006, when he surpassed Michael Cronin to claim the the point-scoring record for a player at a single club. He broke another record in the same year, passing Jason Taylor to become the highest point-scorer in the history of Australian rugby league.
2007 would prove to be the last season in the NRL for Johns after he was concussed early on in the season as with scans then confirming that he had a bulging disc in his neck. This injury led Johns to confirm that he was retiring from the game.

8. Tony Butterfield – A durable, hard-working prop, Butterfield’s career began with the Penrith Panthers but after just four games in two years, he made the move to the Newcastle Knights. Joining them in 1988 in their inaugural season, from there, he never looked back as he became a regular in the side up until his retirement from the game in 2000.
At the time of his retirement, he was the club’s highest capped player with 200 games before that record was broken by Andrew Johns. He played one game for the Country Origin side and one game for New South Wales in 1989 and 1998 respectively. His services to the club were honoured when he was named in the Knights Team of the Decade in 1997 and again in 2007 in their Team of the Era.

9. Danny Buderus – Yet another tremendous player to don the Knights jersey, Danny Buderus is the greatest hooker to have played for the club. Playing only for the Knights, his career with the club over two stints saw him play 257 games in total in club colours.
Early on in the 1997 ARL season, Buderus made his debut but that was the only game he would play that year. His game-time increased as the 1998 season wore on and eventually, he become a regular in the side that went on to win a premiership in 2001. 2001 was also the first year that Buderus was picked for both NSW Country and Australia, going on to play 5 games and 24 games respectively.
After another successful year in 2002, Buderus made his Origin debut and played 21 games for his state throughout his career. The 200th game of his career came in that year, as did just rewards for his performances as he took out the Dally M Hooker of the Year and Dally M Representative Player of the Year.
2004 was probably the best season in Buderus’ career as he took out the Dally M Medal – just the second hooker to do so after Mal Cochrane – as well as the Dally M Hooker of the Year Award yet again. He took out the award for a third time after winning it in 2005.
After several more years with the Knights, Buderus departed for a stint with Super League side, the Leeds Rhinos. He returned to the club in the 2012 season and was in the Country Origin side just 7 weeks upon his return. Still performing at a decent level, Buderus played on until the 2013 season before he announced his retirement from the game.

10. Paul Harragon – A Kurri Kurri local, Paul Harragon has been a part of the Newcastle system since his early days as a rugby league player. Joining the Knights in 1988 from Lakes United, he made his first-grade debut in 1989 against Balmain.
A genuine leader and a physical presence on the field, he led from the front and galvanised his team-mates to come together and be the best players they could be. Before long, he became a regular for both the NSW and the Australian sides, representing both on 20 occasions.
His toughness and determination was all the more impressive and noticeable in 1997 when as captain, he led the side to ARL premiership glory in 1997 despite suffering from headaches and seizures for most of that season.
1999 would prove to be Harragon’s last in the NRL as he was forced to retire from the game due to a knee injury. He would not be lost to the game, though, as he started work with NBN Newcastle and then Channel Nine and was at one point a Director at the Knights. He has also been made a life member.

11. Paul Marquet – He might be a household name but Marquet did not have to be one, for he was an honest, hard-working toiler that went on to win three premierships in his career. Adept primarily as a back-rower, Marquet was resilient in his efforts and consistent and in 1990, he was handed his Knights debut. He found a home on the edge at the club and in his final year of his first stint with them, he played a role in their 1996 ARL premiership success.
The following year, he had a stint with the Hunter Mariners before moving to the Storm for several seasons where he won another premiership. He returned home to Newcastle for a final NRL swansong in 2001 and yet again, won a title, with the Knights taking out the NRL premiership that year with Marquet playing off the bench.

12. Steve Simpson – Born in Maitland near Newcastle, the back-rower could also play both prop and lock and played out his entire career with the Knights. With 216 games for the Knights to his name, 3 games for Country NSW, 13 games for New South Wales and 7 games for Australia, Simpson enjoyed a successful career across all levels.
Simpson made his debut in 1999 and was lucky enough to win a premiership just two years later when the Knights took home the title in 2001. He enjoyed much consistency across his career but was forced to retire in 2010 due to a knee injury.

13. Billy Peden – Yet another Newcastle local, Peden hailed from Cessnock much like the Johns brothers and played alongside many of the aforementioned names here. Making his debut back in 1994, Peden played predominantly back-row but was also able to cover both the hooker and lock positions. He was a consistent performer who went on to play 190 games for the club and was a member of two premiership winning sides at the Knights in 1997 and then again in 2001.
He retired in the 2002 season before heading to England for a year to play with the London Broncos. He returned to the Knights as a coach later in his career.

14. Mark Sargent – A skilful prop, the local Newcastle junior started his career with the Canterbury Bulldogs but after just a few seasons that culminated in 19 games, he returned home to play for the Knights and never looked back. He made an immediate impact at the club with his form guiding him to the Rothmans Medal alongside Gavin Miller. His form continued in 1990 and this led to his sole Origin performance in that same year and then for Australia, who he played four games for.
1991 saw Sargent miss a lot of time due to injury but he did bounce back in 1992 to perform strongly and played for Australia at the World Cup that year. In addition to the above, Sargent was also captain of the Knights alongside fellow prop Paul Harragon for the 1995 season. This would be his last season as he then retired from the game.
He was a team manager at the Knights during their 2001 NRL premiership success before leaving the role in 2005.

15. Marc Glanville – A Wagga Wagga junior, Glanville’s first foray into the rugby league world came in a brief stint with the St George Dragons in 1986. Culminating in just 8 games over two seasons, he joined the Knights for their inaugural season in 1988 and never looked back.
He went on to enjoy a long, storied career with the club playing with them until 1997 when he retired. He was a member of the club’s 1996 ARL premiership success, their maiden title, and played for the Country Origin side on three occasions. In total, he played 188 games for the club, before making the move to England to play with Leeds for two seasons.
He is currently a part of the KOFM radio commentary team that calls Knights games.

16. Robbie McCormack – Starting his career with the Knights in 1988, McCormack soon become a mainstay of the team and was a nifty, lively hooker. Always looking to improve, his good form saw him rewarded with a maiden Origin appearance in 1992 and then again in 1993 when he replaced Benny Elias in the role. In total, he played in two games for the NSW side and three for Country Origin. He eventually became captain of the Knights team and was a member of their maiden premiership success in 1996.
The year after, though, he joined the Hunter Mariners for one season before moving to England to play for Wigan where he won the Super League grand final.

17. Sean Rudder – A versatile utility, Rudder was the ultimate professional. Happy to play wherever he was needed, a lot of his performances came from the bench. When he was on the field, he worked hard, played hard and showed heart and a 6-season career with the Knights yielded 131 games and 21 tries. He was a member of the Knights premiership-winning side in 2001 and then made a move to England where he had stints with both the Castleford Tigers and the Catalan Dragons, before returning to Australia to play with Newtown. This culminated in a sole performance for the Roosters.

Young Tigers back-rower signs new deal at club

Josh Aloiai

After winning the club’s Rookie of the Year award, the Wests Tigers knew they had a special player in Josh Aloiai and they have acted swiftly to retain him by re-signing him to a two-year deal.

Re-signing with the Tigers was an easy decision as he received his first major opportunity at the club.

“I feel really blessed to be able to sign on with Wests Tigers until the end of 2019,” Aloiai said.

“I’m just really thankful because I honestly love coming to training every day, I love turning up with the players and the staff at the Club; so, I’m just happy that I get to be here for a little bit longer.

“It’s a privilege to be able to live my dream (of playing first grade) – the players that we have here have pretty much become my brothers and we also have quality staff at the Club – they really make playing footy more enjoyable.”

Exceeding his own expectations last year, Aloiai wants to improve even further in 2017.

“Last year definitely exceeded all my expectations, I’m just really thankful for the opportunity and I want build off those games in 2017,” he added.

“I’m still just as hungry to keep trying my best, obviously with great players and staff around me I’m really looking forward to that journey.”

Head coach Jason Taylor praised Aloiai for his on-field form and his off-field persona.

“We are enormously happy to have Josh commit to the Club,” Taylor said.

“He is an absolutely superb person, first and foremost, from the way he carries himself around the place, to the way he trains and his values, we are very lucky to have him.”

Taylor is also excited at the improvement left in Aloiai and looks forward to watching him develop as a player.

“On the field, he had a great season in 2016 and played every game – we are looking for improvement on that and so is he,” Taylor added.

“We are really excited about what he can do on the field going forward.”

2017 NRL Auckland Nines Teams

One of the more entertaining fixtures on the NRL calendar, the NRL Auckland Nines have become a favourite of many fans across the league. Faster, quicker and full of exciting plays, it captures the audience and its fans in a different way.

Exciting for all to see, many look forward to the teams that are released and the players that are at the events. So, without further adieu, here are the named teams for this years’ competition (note, it will be updated constantly as players are revealed by their respective teams).

Here are the teams:

Waiheke Pool

Cronulla Sharks:

Gold Coast Titans:

Penrith Panthers:

Canterbury Bulldogs:

Rangitoto Pool

Newcastle Knights: Danny Levi,

Wests Tigers:

Brisbane Broncos:

Melbourne Storm:

Hunua Pool

North Queensland Cowboys:

Sydney Roosters:

Canberra Raiders:

South Sydney Rabbitohs:

Piha Pool

St George Illawarra Dragons:

Manly Sea Eagles:

New Zealand Warriors: Ruben Wiki,

Parramatta Eels:

Greatest Teams Ever Pt 7: Melbourne Storm

In the NRL competition for fewer years than most clubs, the Melbourne Storm have made a tremendous impact on the field. Winning premierships, performing consistently and boasting a plethora of tremendous players, the Storm has become one of the elite sides in the NRL for a number of years now.

In this editorial, we will analyse their best 17 in our view and it has some big names. Will some active players feature? Once again, we send a gentle reminder that our teams are made up of those players who have played almost exclusively for the Storm.

Here we have it, our pick for the best 17 players to have ever donned a Storm jersey:

1. Billy Slater – Commencing with the Storm in 2003, Slater’s talents were immediately on show as a precursor to the dynamic player he would become. His first game started on the wing before he moved to fullback in Rd 2 and he also had a stint at centre during the 2003 season. His debut year was one to remember as he topped the club’s try-scoring list with 19 and won the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award.
Just the next year, he made his first Origin appearance and whilst his debut game was not all that flash, he made up for it in the second as he was named man-of-the-match on the back of a two-try performance.
2004 was another good year for Slater scoring 14 tries from his 22 appearances and he as selected for the end of season Kangaroos tour but had to withdraw from the tour due to injury. He excelled yet again for the Storm in 2005 but he was dropped from the Queensland side for Game 3, a move which angered many fans. He would have to wait a further three seasons before he played Origin again.
From a try-scoring perspective, he finished with 20 tries from 21 matches as he continued to prove his worth. 2006 was a less successful season for Slater. Littered with suspensions – including a 7-week ban for kicking Tigers prop John Skandalis – Slater missed a total of 11 weeks due to suspension that season but did play in the grand final which the Storm was unable to win.
After a quiet start in 2007, it was made worse when Slater broke his cheekbone. Returning in Rd 18, this was the first season that saw Slater control the back-line play and become a crucial cog in the attacking system. He set up 20 tries in 2007 to go with his 12 tries. This time, he would taste success as the Storm made the 2007 grand final and won, with a victory over Manly. He won the club’s Back of the Year award and was named at fullback in their team of the decade.
2008 saw the Storm work so hard only to fall short at the final hurdle but Slater was named as the club’s player of the year. In that same year, he won the Golden Boot and was named the RLIF’s International Player of the Year.
The Storm would win another grand final in 2009 even though it ended up being stripped after the Storm were found guilty of breaching the salary cap but Slater still took out the Clive Churchill Medal and finished as the Storm’s leading try-scorer. Slater continued to assert his dominance on the game and took out the highest honour, the 2011 Dally M Medal of the Year. He drew praise from the likes of Andrew Johns who said Slater was the greatest fullback he had ever seen.
He won another premiership with the Storm in 2012 and continued to play for club, state and country on a regular basis.
In more recent times, Slater has unfortunately been away from the field due to a problematic shoulder injury that has kept him out for some time. He is still looking to return from that injury ahead of the 2017 season.

2. Marcus Bai – A hulking winger from Papua New Guinea, Bai would become a fan favourite and a key player for the Storm during his time with the club. Starting out with English side Hull FC, Bai also played for the Gold Coast Chargers briefly before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
Bai settled in smoothly and was named Dally M Winger of the Year in just his first year with the club. He continued to impress in 1999 and played in every game on the wing that culminated in the club’s maiden premiership success after a hard-fought win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Hey may have only been at the Storm for five years but Bai was a player that the fans revered, as the Papua New Guinean-born winger impressed with his try-scoring ability and hard-running under pressure. In the end, he finished with 70 tries from 144 games and eventually finished his career with English side, Leeds.

3. Aaron Moule – The Queensland-born centre started his career with the South Queensland Crushers before making the move to the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998. He went on to play in 104 games and scored 58 tries in the process, a handy track record over a five-year period with the club.
Moule played at centre in the Storm’s inaugural premiership success in 1999 and also at the World Club Challenge in 2000.
He finished as the club’s leading try-scorer in both 2001 and 2002 before making the move to England to play with both Widnes and Salford.

4. Will Chambers – Hailing from Gove in the Northern Territory, Chambers made the move to Queensland first where he played his junior footy. Commencing his career with the Melbourne Storm, Chambers has only played for the one club throughout his career. Making his debut in 2007, Chambers was not involved in the club’s 2007 grand final success but he was endorsed by Matt King – who was involved in that success – as the man to replace him moving forward.
Chambers slowly became a regular in the Storm’s first-grade side and was a member of the 2009 premiership success which ended his first stint with the club. He made the move to Super Rugby when he signed a 2-year deal with the Queensland Reds. After that brief stint, he then signed with Munster for a short period of time.
Rejoining the Storm for the 2012 season, he had a successful start to the season upon his return. A key player by this time for the club, he was a member of the club’s 2012 premiership success and their World Club Challenge victory. He earned an Origin call-up during the 2014 season and played again in 2015.
Chambers then went on to captain the Storm’s NRL Auckland Nines side in 2015 before gaining selection for the Indigenous All-Stars in the annual clash. He then became the 800th player to represent the Kangaroos.

5. Matt Geyer – One of the greatest players to don the purple jersey of the Storm, Geyer was an influential figure and leader at the club. A genuine utility in that he was versatile across the park, he actually had a very brief stint at the Western Reds in 1997 before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
At the time of his retirement, he was the Storm’s most capped player with 262 tries and amassing 662 points in the total (113 tries & 105 goals). In 1999, he was the first Storm player to lead the NRL in point-scoring and one of his goals – the most crucial of all – secured the Storm’s maiden premiership success that same year.
In 2006, he became the first Storm player to reach 200 career games for the club and was the only remaining player from the Storm’s 1999 premiership winning year to play in the 2006 decider that the Storm lost. They bounced back the year after when they won the 2007 grand final, a game that Geyer was a part of.
As he started to play more games off the bench, that role eventually changed when fellow centre Will Chambers was injured. Geyer replaced him for that season in 2008 and then made the decision to retire upon the season’s completion. Upon his retirement, he left the club as their leading try-scorer.

6. Scott Hill – Born and raised in Dubbo, Hill’s rugby league career began with stints at the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Hunter Mariners before joining the team saw him become a household name, the Melbourne Storm. A tremendous player, many remember Hill for his slight of hand and the swift nature in which he played the game.
Hill was a Storm player from their inaugural season in 1998 and whilst he played a part in the 1999 season, he missed the grand final due to a knee reconstruction. A talented utility, Hill enjoyed a lengthy stint with the Storm and was a consistent performer for the club. He was often criticised for not performing as well as he could have on the representative stage but Storm fans revered him for his efforts with the club.
2006 ended up being Hill’s last with the club as he made the move to England to sign with Harlequins.

7. Cooper Cronk – Starting out as a bench utility in 2004, Cooper Cronk has since gone on to forge a lengthy, successful career as a player with the Storm side. Covering five-eighth, hooker and lock when he started, it was the 2006 season in which he first gained recognition by winning the 2006 Dally M Halfback of the Year.
Due to the absence of Cam Smith, Cronk was captain in the Storm’s 2008 premiership defeat to Manly. The following year, he was instrumental in the club’s grand final success setting up two tries even though that premiership was eventually stripped due to the Storm’s salary cap breach.
Also a mainstay in the Queensland Origin side, it was the 2010 season that his Origin career kicked on after an injury to Johnathan Thurston. He continued to perform at all levels over the next few years before enjoying premiership success in 2012, one of the best seasons in Cronk’s career. He won Dally M Halfback of the Year for a second time and was named the Clive Churchill Medallist on grand final day. He continued his good form in 2013, a year that saw him win not only Dally M Halfback of the Year for a third time but also the Dally M Award for the first time.
In 2014, he played in his 250th NRL game, just the third Storm player to reach the milestone.
Just last year in 2016, Cronk was only the 25th player to reach 300 games and just the 11th to do so playing for one club. He also won yet another Dally M Halfback of the Year Award and the Dally M Award in 2016, tied with the Cowboys Jason Taumalolo.

8. Robbie Kearns – A junior at the Engadine Dragons, Kearns started out with the Cronulla Sharks firstly before a stint at the Western Reds. When the Storm entered the competition, Kearns joined in 1998. In just his first season with the club, he was named as the club’s player of the year. A no-nonsense, hard-nosed, strong forward, Kearns was part of the Storm side that won the 1999 premiership in their second year and of the World Club Challenge success in 2000.
He was captain from 2000 to 2002 and then again in 2005 which ended up being his last year of professional rugby league. At a representative level, Kearns played for both NSW and Australia. He remained with the Storm in a marketing capacity upon his retirement.
In the Storm’s Team of the Decade named in 2007, Kearns was selected at prop.

9. Cameron Smith – Whilst we all know Cam Smith as the best hooker in the game at present, he actually started his career as a halfback in his first two games with the Storm. His long stint with at hooker with the Storm began in 2003 and his first Origin performance came that same year when the Maroons could not decide on a long-term hooker to play for them.
2003 was capped off with Smith winning the NRL Rookie of the Year award. 2005 then saw Smith named the Storm’s Player of the Year before winning the Dally M Medal in 2006, his best year with the Storm and in the NRL up until that point. He made his representative debut in 2006 before helping the Storm win the NRL premiership in 2007. 2008 saw a big shift in the career of Smith when he was named captain. Since that time, he has never looked back and led the Storm side with guidance and genuine leadership.
He had another stint at halfback in the World Club Challenge in 2010 when Cooper Cronk was injured but reverted back to hooker soon after. Continuing to lead from the front and set the tone, Smith was named the RLIF Hooker of the Year in 2011. 2012 was another successful year for Smith as he guided the Storm to a premiership success and won the Dally M Hooker of the Year once again in addition to being named the RLIF International Player of the Year.
Just last year, Smith played in his 300th match and became just the 24th player in history to do so. He continues to guide his younger team-mates on and off the field and is revered by many Storm fans and many fans across the NRL.

10. Rodney Howe – Another player to join the Storm for their inaugural season, Howe previously had stints at both the Newcastle Knights and the Western Reds. His Storm career started somewhat badly, though, after he was banned for 22 games for using stanozolol. Returning in 1999 with a bang, though, he quickly re-established himself as a key forward for the club and he was a part of the club’s premiership success that year.
Howe’s good form continued after he was named the club’s player of the year in 2000 before winning it again in 2002. After a couple more seasons with the club and after continuing to perform well, Howe opted to retire at the end of the 2004 season.

11. Stephen Kearney – Joining the Storm in their maiden 1998 season, Kearney had previously played for both the Western Suburbs Magpies and the Auckland Warriors. A hulking forward, Kearney was a tough player to handle for opposition defences. Many regard him as one of the best on ground in the club’s maiden premiership success in 1999.
He travelled with the Storm to England and was a member in the Storm’s comprehensive win.
A consistent forward, Kearney continued to impress regularly for the Storm and went on to play a remarkable 45 games for the New Zealand Kiwis. He was also the first New Zealander to play in 250 NRL games, a mark that still stands today.
Playing with the Storm until the end of the 2004 season, Kearney had a final season with English side, Hull FC.

12. Danny Williams – Whilst many might only remember him for the way in which he left the NRL, prior to that, he was quite a successful, nifty player for the Storm and the North Sydney Bears. Joining the Storm in 2008, Williams came off the bench in the club’s 1999 maiden premiership success before travelling with the side to England for the World Club Challenge, a game the club won.
Playing in a total of of 146 games for the club, Williams time at the club ended suddenly. In 2004, Williams king-hit Mark O’Neill and was banned for a total of 18 games, an Australian club record ban. After that, he moved to England and played with Harlequins before retiring.

13. Dallas Johnson – Spotted playing for the Storm’s affiliate team, Johnson made the move to the Storm ahead of the 2003 season and played in 20 games in his debut year. A hard-worker, a fan favourite and a player who loved to make tackles, Johnson toiled and performed well for three seasons before his good form culminated in winning the 2007 NRL premiership with the Storm. Although as we all know, this would later be stripped in 2010.
Playing his 150th match for the club in the 2008 season, Johnson would continue to represent both Queensland and Australia up until his Storm departure. The 2009 season was the last one at the Storm that led to another premiership which was also stripped in 2010 due to the salary cap breach.
He then moved to French side Catalans before returning to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys.

14. Richard Swain – A talented Kiwi player, Swain made his debut with the Hunter Mariners in 1997 before moving to the Storm for their inaugural 1998 season. In a remarkable feat of durability, Swain did not miss a single game for the Storm from his debut to his final game in 2002. His form was consistent and he was rewarded with a total of 19 games for New Zealand throughout his career.
In just their 2nd year, the Storm won a maiden premiership with Swain an influential part of that team at hooker. He was rewarded for his good form by winning the Storm’s Player of the Year Award in 2001 and was the first player in the NRL to top 1000 tackles in a season.
With 2002 being his final year with the club, Swain then had one year at the Brisbane Broncos, before heading to England to play for Hull FC.

15. Matt Rua – Initially a Manly junior, Rua also joined the Storm in their inaugural year of 1998 and played for feeder club Norths Devils. He won the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1999 and won a premiership with the club the same year. He also represented New Zealand and played 11 games for the Kiwis over three years.
He quickly became a mainstay of the side and was noted for his determination and hard-running, despite his smaller stature for the position. Lock and second-row were his positions and he continued to play for the club until the 2002 season. In total, he played 100 NRL games for the Storm before being released. He had signed with Canberra but then left to play in the Bartercard Cup.
He returned for one final game with the Storm in 2007 but that is all he would play and he retired at the end of that season.

16. Russell Bawden – A hard-working forward, Bawden was an unsung hero of the Storm side at the time but toiled and impressed many fans. His career started with the Brisbane Broncos but after a couple of games there, he then had a stint at the London Broncos before joining the Storm for their inaugural season in 1998.
He was a part of the Storm’s 1999 premiership success as a forward off the bench before also winning the 2000 World Club Challenge. Over 101 games with the Storm, he also represented Queensland on three occasions. At the end of the 2001 season, Bawden departed and had a second stint with the London Broncos.

17. Ryan Hoffman – A hard-running edge back-rower, Hoffman quickly established himself as a key player in the Storm side after making his debut in 2003. After consistent form, his 2006 season saw him make his representative debut for New South Wales as well as taking out the Storm’s Forward of the Year Award. The sour point of his 2006 season was the Storm’s grand final loss.
He was a part of the Storm’s premiership successes in 2007 and 2009, both of which were eventually stripped from the Storm due to their salary cap breaches.
As a result, the Storm had to shed players with Hoffman being one of them. He joined the Wigan Warriors in England and played with them for one season. In 2012, he rejoined the Storm and played in the club’s 2012 premiership victory as well as the 2013 World Cup Challenge victory.
At the end of 2014, he made the move across the Tasman to the New Zealand Warriors where he currently plays.

Barba agrees to new 1-year deal at the Sharks

Ben Barba

His recent off-field indiscretions were well-known and well-documented but after the Cronulla Sharks met with Barba and his management, they discussed a new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL.

The Cronulla Sharks released a statement of their own on the matter and it reads as follows:

“Sharks Grand Final winning fullback Ben Barba has agreed to a new one-year contract with the club for the 2017 season.

Barba, who featured in all 27 Sharks matches in 2016, scoring 15 tries and delivering a team-high 18 try assists, has worked diligently on making his return to the NRL a reality and is continuing his well-being program.

The club met with Barba and his management to discuss the new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL.

The contract will be submitted to the NRL for approval and registration.

Should his contract be ratified and accepted the club will work with the NRL Integrity Unit to determine a time frame for Barba’s integration back into the Sharks NRL program and in relation to his return to training.”

Roosters re-sign enforcer Napa

Dylan Napa

Despite overtures from the Brisbane Broncos, Dylan Napa has opted to remain with the Sydney Roosters after re-signing until the end of the 2019 season.

The two-year extension is just desserts for Napa who has been a solid performer for the club over the years. Napa is pleased to have signed the contract extension.

“I’ve been at the Roosters since I was 17. I came here as a kid and this is where I have developed as a football player, but more importantly as a person, so I’m happy with how it’s all worked out and to agree to a new two-year extension,” said Napa.

“My football has progressed over the years with the Roosters, and the Club is heading in an exciting direction, so I’m happy to know that I’ll continue to be a part of it,” he added.

Cementing his spot in the side, the club is pleased to have retained Napa.

“Dylan has been in the Roosters system for a number of years now, and we are pleased to have retained his services, despite interest from other clubs,” said Roosters CEO John Lee.

Someone who knows Napa well is coach Trent Robinson and he looks forward to having him at the club moving forward.

“Dylan is a fierce competitor and a highly-valued contributor to our team,” said Robinson.

“Dylan holds himself accountable and has worked hard to cement his position as a leader in our pack, and I’m looking forward to watching his development in the coming seasons,” he added.

Jarrod Mullen suspended by NRL for breaching anti-doping policy

Jarrod Mullen

Perhaps the last person that many would have believed to be involved in an incident of this nature, Newcastle Knights veteran Jarrod Mullen has been suspended by the NRL for breaching their anti-doping policy.

Mullen’s suspension comes after his A-sample tested positive for Drastanolone, a banned anabolic steroid under both the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy and the World Anti Doping Agency’s policy.

Whilst the provisional suspension is in place, Jarrod Mullen is prohibited from participating in any WADA compliant sport, rugby league included.

In an NRL statement, they said they would not make any further comment on the matter.

The Knights released a statement of their own outlining their disappointment in the breach.

“The Newcastle Knights has been made aware the NRL has provisionally suspended Jarrod Mullen under the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.

The Provisional Suspension Notice asserts that Mullen returned a positive A-sample for an anabolic steroid, Drostanolone which is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.

He was tested by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) on November 29, 2016.

Mullen is prohibited from participating in any WADA compliant sport, including Rugby League, while the provisional suspension is in place.

Under the Anti-Doping Policy, Mullen now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

“The Club is obviously extremely disappointed,” CEO Matt Gidley said.

“The Club has a strict governance program, the players are regularly educated and fully aware of the consequences of going outside our governance guidelines.

“From here, there is a formal process we need to follow under the guidelines.

“We need to respect the process and in the interim the Club will continue to monitor Jarrod’s welfare.”

In-form Titans prop signs new deal

Ryan James

Many reports linked him with an apparent move to the Brisbane Broncos but in fantastic news for the Gold Coast Titans, Ryan James has re-signed with the club.

Coming off the back of a career-best season in 2016, James was immediately linked elsewhere but has opted to remain with the Titans until the end of 2020.

Making his debut back in Rd 14 of 2010, the Bilambil Jets junior has since played 93 NRL games in his career and scored 12 tries in 2016, a record for a prop.

In the end, James knew that staying at the club he loves and the club that has supported him was the right decision to make.

“I’m glad we’ve been able to get it all sorted and over the line,” James said.

“It’s all come to an end point now and I get to be at the club that I love for the next four years.

“I love the Gold Coast, I love playing for the Titans, and my family love that they can come and watch the majority of my games so that all went into this decision.

“They talk about becoming a one-club man and there is potential for it now. I’ll be 29 at the end of this contract, so hopefully I can achieve that and be the person that everyone aspires to be.”

A key player for the Titans over the last 18 months, he has tremendous value to the side and coach Neil Henry knows how crucial he is for the team and the Gold Coast.

“Ryan is a key member of our playing squad and I’m extremely pleased that he has committed to the club for a further three years,” Henry said.

“He is a member of the leadership group, a terrific trainer, an asset on the field and someone that the younger guys look up to. They are all important attributes we want in our senior players here at the Titans.”

Club CEO Graham Annesley also praised the re-signing and James himself.

“Retaining Ryan despite very serious competition for his signature, and on top of other recent signings demonstrates that some of the best players in the game believe in this club and its future potential,” Annesley said.

“Ryan is not only a great player, he’s a great person, and a wonderful ambassador for everything that is good about our game,” Annesley concluded.

Raiders star involved in drink driving incident and charged with DUI

Josh Papalii

They might be doing all the right things on the field and trying to avoid off-field issues but the Canberra Raiders have been forced to release a statement after one of their players was involved in a drink driving incident.

It comes after the news that Josh Papalii has been charged with drink driving in the nation’s capital yesterday.

Club Chairman Don Furner admits that he is disappointed in Papalii over the incident.

“We are disappointed with his actions,” Furner said.

“We will work with the Australian Federal Police.”

The Raiders statement reads as follows:

“The Canberra Raiders have been made aware of a drink driving incident involving Josh Papalii which occured overnight.

Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner said the club was disappointed to hear about the incident and the NRL Integrity Unit had been notified.

The Raiders have will wait for the outcome of the AFP’s investigation into the incident before making any further comment.”

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