Former rugby league player becomes new CEO of the Northern Pride

Rod Jensen

Rod Jensen. His name may sound familiar and you may remember him as a former rugby league player in both the NRL and the Super League. Now, in 2015, he has a new role and a big one at that.

Jensen has been named as the new CEO of Intrust Super Cup side, the Northern Pride. With close to 150 professional rugby league games to his name and a further 68 for the Pride as a player, Jensen retired from playing duties in 2012.

Life after football saw Jensen become a qualified teacher and the leader of the Pride’s Take Pride program and the Learn Earn Legend! Program supported by the Federal Government.

Jensen will begin in the role due to current CEO Brock Schaefer moving to Sydney to take up a role with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Also occupying himself as a player-coach of a team in the Cairns rugby league competition, Jensen is thrilled to have this new opportunity.

“It’s a rare privilege to have the chance to lead such a club and I thank the Northern Pride Board for appointing me to the position,” Jensen said.

“It is a special time for this footy club with a record-breaking treble-winning season in 2014, and the excitement of a new season ahead of us with a new head coach and a thrilling squad of players.

“It’s no secret that I have a massive passion for rugby league, particularly the Northern Pride and the sport in general in North Queensland, and I aim to continue the great work of my predecessors.”

Jensen knows the team and the area well, perhaps more than most, as he looks forward to all the thrills and challenges that come with the role.

“I’m a local guy who has been at the club for six years now, first as a player and more recently as part of the administrative and business management team, and I’m really excited about the future,” said Jensen.

“The great successes of this club are a reflection of the aspiration, commitment and passion of our players, our corporate partners, and our season members.

“I look forward to spending the next few weeks and months speaking to as many of our supporters, sponsors and volunteers as possible.”

The Pride are confident that Jensen is the right man for the job.

“Since his playing career ended, Rod has displayed all the attributes necessary in handling administration and business management duties through his work with the Pride’s community engagement programs,” said Northern Pride Chairman, Mr Bob Fowler said.

“I think it’s another example of the excellent career pathways our great club provides for not only our players, but also our staff, and we’ve no doubt Rod will continue to steer the club in the right direction.

“We’ve all been impressed by Rod’s views to transform and strengthen our organisation and look forward to supporting him, our staff and players to have our club recognised as the most professional and successful state league sporting club in Australia.”

In addition to Jensen being made CEO, the Pride have also inaugural former Pride CEO Denis O’Keeffe in a consultancy role to assist Jensen.

“Denis has more than 25 years of senior management experience in professional rugby league, basketball and has an impressive contact list in Far North Queensland,” Mr Fowler added.

“He will assist the club in delivering our sales and sponsorship functions.”

Young Tigers prop in trouble after police incident

Matt Lodge

Another bad look for the NRL and a potential nail in the coffin for budding Wests Tigers prop, Matt Lodge, who has been charged by police after an altercation on the morning of Sunday January 11.

In a blow for the Tigers and the NRL, the club have acted swiftly and have released the following statement on the matter:

“Wests Tigers can confirm that Matthew Lodge has been charged by the NSW Police following an altercation in the early hours of Sunday 11 January 2015.

The Club finds Lodge’s actions unacceptable and is cooperating fully with the NRL Integrity Unit.

Lodge was stood down from training for one week due to a breach of Club protocol and further punishment will be considered once the NRL Integrity Unit has concluded investigating the matter.

Wests Tigers will make no further comment at this time.”

Ricky’s View: Players set to bounce back in 2015

Glenn Stewart

The life of an NRL player is often quite demanding and so, at times, their form is not up to scratch, waning in such a way that can potentially result in a demotion for a player. With some new recruits seeking a new opportunity and a fresh start to players that were established but now have to fight their way back into a side, there is improvement in many players across the board.

This particular piece will focus on those players that have nothing to lose and a lot to prove, as they look to bounce back from horror years either through injury and/or poor form. Some might be new recruits, whilst others will have been at their current clubs for some years now.

All in all, improvement is prevalent in all their games and 2015 is the year that they can potentially do it. So, without further adieu, here are the 16 players that can potentially bounce back for their clubs in 2015:

1. Jordan Kahu (Brisbane Broncos): Injuries. They have not been kind to Kahu in the past, as has been forced to spend a lot of times on the sidelines recovering and working his way back into the Broncos side. He achieved that last year and played in a few games but with an opportunity at fullback arising after the unfortunate injury to Darius Boyd, this is a chance for Kahu to show the Broncos fans and the NRL what he can do. He has always had the talent to start and if injuries were not as frequent for him, he probably would have been a mainstay of the Broncos side by now.

2. Edrick Lee (Canberra Raiders): Another player that was hit hard by the injury bug, especially last season. When it looked like Lee was firing on all cylinders and providing great speed and height for the Raiders on the wing, injury struck. Now at full fitness and back into the training grind for the pre-season, the chance is there for Lee to work hard and play hard, in a bid to show that he once again deserves that wing spot. His talent is also well known and with the Raiders looking to have an improved year, the raw power and determination of Lee, could be a handy asset on the wing.

3. Josh Morris (Canterbury Bulldogs): Renowned for his try-scoring and game-breaking ability, something was missing for Morris in 2014. Scoring just 3 tries for the entire season – compared to 17 in 2012 – Morris had some tough times on the field and was not his usual self. Whatever it was that might have been restricting him, with a full pre-season under his belt and a new year fast approaching, Morris is sure to get back to where he belongs. The top. When on song, Morris is one of the best centres in the game and the Bulldogs will be relying on him to recapture that 2012 form where it seemed like he was scoring tries for fun.

4. Ben Barba (Cronulla Sharks): Barba’s 2014 season was heavily scrutinised by many and although his time in Brisbane did not quite work out, he has a chance to start anew and work within an organisation that has the potential to go places. The live-wire and enigmatic utility is likely to start at five-eighth for the Sharks – his favoured position – after some inconsistencies last year in Brisbane, the only way is up. His support play and nippiness will be two factors to watch out for, with the new Sharks recruit set to feature as one of the club’s most important players in 2015.

5. Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans): So much promise over the years that has been ruined by either injuries or poor form. James is a player that was once linked with an Origin appearance for NSW, such was the form he was in. That seems like an age ago now, with injuries and poor form limiting his time in first-grade in recent years. The young prop has no better chance to make his mark than now, especially with an abundance of forwards departing the club, as they revamp their side ahead of 2015. James is a powerful, bruising enforcer and if he can get going and perform to his potential, he could shape to be one of the Titans best forwards over the entire season.

6. Justin Horo (Manly Sea Eagles): His first year with Manly, Horo turned out to be a revelation. Bordering on 80 minutes game and outperforming players on the fringes almost for fun. A real keeper for Manly. In 2014, though, that form waned and dipped and it was not the same Horo that blitzed the field in 2013. With some recent player turnover that has shaken up the Manly forward pack, Horo has a chance to start from scratch and help the Manly pack rebuild. He is a talented player and if he can get his head back in the game and work well with the likes of Jamie Buhrer and Feleti Mateo – his back-row partners – it could be another very good year for the back-rower.

7. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Storm): His end at the Canberra Raiders was not the flashiest of affairs nor the prettiest and as a result, it brought about a new challenge for the former Origin prop. A few years ago, he was putting in the hard yards and impressing for the Raiders before he too was hit by the poor form and injury bug. After months of recovery and several stop-and-start attempts to return, Learoyd-Lahrs made a decision to move away from the nation’s capital to further his career. With spots open in the Storm front-row, he has a great chance to make a spot his own and prove to his new club and their fans, that he still has what it takes to play NRL consistently.

8. Carlos Tuimavave (Knights): Things were looking good for Tuimavave early in 2014. A try in rd 1 and a good performance but that was when injury struck. After that, there was no return to the first-grade line-up for him last year. A top-notch utility that has proven he is far too good for the NSW Cup, Tuimavave sought greener pastures to further his career and ended up in Newcastle. With a potential utility spot up for grabs, Tuimavave is bound to work hard, play hard and impress Knights fans who may not have seen a lot of him. Should he get the opportunity, he certainly will not disappoint.

9. Lachlan Coote (Cowboys): The talent is evident but so too, is the injury history. For Coote, he has been on the cusp of succeeding and going to the next level when injury has struck. With an ACL injury in last years’ Nines tournament, 2015 is hopefully the injury-free season for Coote and one that can see him claw his way back into first-grade. It certainly will not be easy given the emergence of Morgan at fullback and the halves depth but pre-season and the Nines competition will be telling. If he gets a crack again and does play first-grade, the only way is forwards for the talented utility.

10. Danny Wicks (Eels): His past was well-documented and according to some, he should still be out of the game. But with any first indiscretion, comes a chance for redemption. For Wicks, the Eels have given that chance and so far, he is making the most of it. Wicks appears fitter, faster and stronger – physically and mentally – and primed for a surprise first-grade spot, such has been the nature of the way he has performed in training. A big, mobile unit, Wicks offers the Eels pack some punch up-front and with his past now seemingly behind him, the opportunity is there for Wicks to not only excel but to be rewarded with a new contract at some point during the season.

11. Matt Moylan (Panthers): Some might say Moylan does not belong on a list like this but he’s on it for one very simple reason. The kid can get even better. He was good in 2014 and did some brilliant things but such is his talent and awareness of the game, that he can go to the next level and prove himself. With a solid 2015 season, Moylan can put his mark and stamp on the game and move very close to the upper echelon of current NRL fullbacks. He is a crucial player for the Panthers in 2015 and if he fires, you can bet the Panthers are going to rack up the points for fun.

12. Glenn Stewart (Souths): He might not be a spring chicken anymore but Glenn Stewart will be out to prove that his old legs can still produce the goods, as the Bunnies look to utilise him efficiently. A tremendous passer of the ball and the epitome of the ball-playing lock role, Stewart has a chance to start afresh and make his mark at a new club. The injuries caught up with him during his time at Manly and ultimately, led to his departure from the club. In a new system under a superb coach in Michael Maguire, Stewart has all the makings to succeed and regain at least some of the form that saw him play Origin a few years ago.

13. George Rose (Dragons): Last-chance saloon? Some certainly think so and with Rose changing clubs a fair bit of late, perhaps this opportunity at the Dragons does present itself as the last chance for him to make a mark in the NRL. He has the fans behind him and the cult hero status but will that transcend into his on-field play? The work-rate has always been the criticism but Rose is a determined player and is expected to feature somewhere in the side’s 17 come Rd 1 so if he can knuckle down and make inroads, he could be a handy player for the Dragons either starting or off the bench.

14. Aidan Guerra (Roosters): Set to fill the shoes of the departed Sonny Bill Williams, Guerra has an important role out Roosters way in 2015 and beyond. To hold down his side of the field and exploit the fringes. Good form saw Guerra rewarded with a maiden Queensland appearance and retaining that form is the key for him individually and the key for the club. Knowing what SBW brought to the table in terms of dynamism and unpredictability is hard to replicate but with a player like Guerra to replace him – who, mind you, is only getting better and better each year – is something that has many Roosters fans cheering.

15. Ryan Hoffman (Warriors): In search of a new challenge, Hoffman crossed the Tasman and signed with the Warriors. 2014 was not his best year, though, as the former Origin forward was at times overshadowed by his younger team-mates. With a new challenge comes a chance to help guide the Warriors younger forwards towards the right direction, as he looks to make the most of the move. His experience will be crucial for the Warriors pack, especially playing alongside captain Simon Mannering. 2015 should be a season of bounce back to form for Hoffman.

16. Tim Simona (Tigers): You know when a player has that special something and Tigers wonderkid Tim Simona, he has got it. He burst onto the scene with some scintillating plays and great solo tries and put the NRL and Tigers fans on notice. Since then, though, some injuries and poor form – mind you, collective poor team form as well, thus limiting his individual chances – saw Simona slip a little bit and struggle. Though with the new year ahead of us and Simona likely to play in the centres, he has a chance to redeem himself and get back to that ripper form that had everyone clapping and cheering.

Rabbitohs halves duo re-sign in huge boost for the club

Adam Reynolds

It was a long time coming but the speculation can finally cease, with the South Sydney Rabbitohs confirming that both Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary have signed new deals with the club.

The duo, who were linked with moves away at differing times, will play together in the halves from 2015. Reynolds re-signed until 2017 and Keary until 2016, with the duo set to excite fans with some enticing play.

The move is one that has coach Michael Maguire pleased, who is looking forward to seeing the duo playing alongside each other in the halves over the next few seasons.

“Adam and Luke have grown together as players in our halves and have become an integral part of our team over the past two seasons that they have been playing together,” Coach Maguire said.

“It’s exciting for us and our Members to see two of the brightest young halves prospects commit to the Club and show that they see their future in the red and green, so I couldn’t be happier about these agreements.

“They can now concentrate on preparing themselves for the season ahead which promises to be an exciting one for everyone in the Rabbitohs family.”

The red and green colours are all Reynolds has ever known and he could not be happier to keep on playing for the club he loves.

“I’m really happy to have my contract situation sorted out before the season starts and I’m really excited about the year ahead, as well as the next three seasons,” Reynolds said.

“It’s great to know that Luke has also extended his contract and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on the combination we’ve developed over the past two years.

“I love running out in front of our Members and fans each week and to know I’ll be doing that for the next three years is fantastic.”

Equally excited is his expected halves partner Luke Keary, who also loves the club.

“I love playing here at Souths, with the boys we’ve got in the squad, so it was a fairly straight forward decision for me in the end,” Keary said.

“We have a great group here, we’re focused on our job and know that if we work hard we can achieve great things.

“I’m glad the contract situation is sorted out before the season starts and I can’t wait to get back into the footy and representing the Rabbitohs.”

Luke Keary

Communications company GMEA renew sponsorship with the Lebanon rugby league

Still developing and growing as a rugby league nation, hearing of their successes and developments is good news and for Lebanese rugby league, they have a sponsorship renewal.

Multi-national communications company GMEA and the Lebanese rugby league came to an agreement, that will see the two organisations linked together for their fourth year.

Mohamed Habbous, the Lebanese Rugby League Federation President, is happy to see the deal agreed upon to help the youths in school.

“We are extremely happy to announce the extended partnership,” said Habbous.

“GMEA’s continued support and help during these difficult times in Lebanon is so important for the youth and sport here.”

The re-branded GMEA schools rugby league competition will cover two regions of the country – North Lebanon and Mount Lebanon, as well as hosting U16 & U18 teams.

The competition will kick off on February 1. The teams involved in the tournament are: Antonine International School, International College, St Joseph’s School, Amchit School (all part of the Mount Lebanon conference) and Balamand, Malaab, Jadida and Namouzaj (all in the North Lebanon conference).

Charles Chedrawi, GMEA’s Chairman, believe that supporting Lebanese rugby league is the right thing to do, as they encourage the next generation of kids to get involved with the sport.

“We continue to support the LRLF because we believe in what they do,” said Chedrawi.

“They continue to encourage the country’s next generation to embrace and enjoy sport and establish camaraderie.”

Broncos prop commits to club despite persistent speculation

Josh McGuire

Keen to test himself on the open market, the rumours began and continued for some time regarding the future of Brisbane Broncos prop, Josh McGuire.

Making one of the front-row spots his own in 2014 and with international kudos to boot, he is a fan favourite at the club and Broncos fans will be pleased to know that he has re-signed for the next two years.

For McGuire himself, it is an exciting move and one that he feels comfortable with knowing that his Broncos future is secure.

“Mate, I’m very excited. I’ve got my future sewn up for the next couple of years,” said McGuire.

“It’s very exciting to stay here at the club that I love and I’m very excited about the future.”

2014 was a good year for McGuire and with that in mind, he knows that he has to maintain the consistency come the 2015 season.

“Hopefully there’s good things to come and I can concentrate on the season,” said McGuire.

“I feel like this is home and I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Time under supercoach Wayne Bennett has gone well so far and McGuire looks forward to what lies ahead.

“It’s been a different experience but you can see straight away why he is who he is,” said McGuire.

“The boys are responding well, it’s been very intense but training has been very good.”

Burgess trio at Souths no more as Luke heads to Manly

Luke Burgess

To date, the Burgess brothers have only been associated with the South Sydney Rabbitohs but not anymore. That is because Luke Burgess will join the Manly Sea Eagles for the 2015 and 2016 NRL seasons.

With 135 NRL and Super League games to his name for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, London Harlequins & the Leeds Rhinos, the move allows Burgess to explore new options and look for a chance at more footy.

Burgess has tasted premiership success on two occasions – once in 2009 with the Leeds Rhinos and last year with the South Sydney Rabbitohs – and looks forward to his new opportunity at Manly.

“I’ve had a wonderful time at the South Sydney Rabbitohs and I’d like to thank them for the wonderful memories over the years,” Burgess said.

“I really appreciate them granting me this release. I’m really looking forward to the next few seasons at the Sea Eagles and can’t wait to get stuck in with the boys tomorrow,” Burgess added.

With the club’s need for further prop depth given the release of several forwards, signing Burgess gives them that with coach Geoff Toovey pleased to have the Englishman on board.

“Luke is really coming into his prime as a front-rower and we’re pleased to have added more experience, power and depth to our forward pack with his late addition to the squad,” said Toovey.

“He’s an experienced footballer and comes with a winning mentality, so I’m sure he’ll fit right in to what we have got going here at the Club already.”

Also pleased to have the Englishman on board was new CEO Joe Kelly, who praised the club’s ability to get a quality forward so close to the start of the season.

“Luke signing with the Club is a fantastic result and I’d like to thank the South Sydney Rabbitohs for their willingness to grant him a release and join us here on the Northern Beaches,” said Kelly.

NRL Auckland Nines Teams

Time really does fly and here we are, already looking forward to the second NRL Auckland Nines competition. The Cowboys won it last year and with a new year, new players and new systems, any team has the opportunity to enjoy that success that the Cowboys did.

To date, only three teams (Newcastle, Canberra and New Zealand) have announced their squads with the rest to follow, in what should be an entertaining competition. The Nines are a chance for young players keen to play NRL to shine and show the competition just how good they can be.

With that said and without further adieu, here are the teams:

New Zealand Warriors squad

1. Shaun Johnson (C) 2. Matt Allwood 3. Nathan Friend 4. Ben Henry 5. Ryan Hoffman 6. Sebastine Ihahihifo 7. Solomone Kata 8. Sam Lisone 9. Ngani Laumape 10. Tuimoala Lolohea 11. Sione Lousi 12. Simon Mannering 13. Suaia Matagi 14. Ben Matulino 15. Ken Maumalo 16. Dominique Peyroux 17. Nathaniel Roache 18. Bodene Thompson 19. Sam Tomkins 20. Chad Townsend 21. Manu Vatuvei 22. Jonathan Wright.

Coach: Andrew McFadden.

Canberra Raiders squad

1. Sam Williams 2. Mitch Cornish 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Lachlan Croker 5. Sisa Waqa 6. Josh McCrone 7. Joel Edwards 8. Rhys Kennedy 9. Glen Buttriss 10. Brenko Lee 11. Bill Tupou 12. Jack Ahearn 13. Luke Bateman 14. Haydon Hodge 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Kyle O’Donnell 17. Tevita Pangai Jr. 18. Ken Nagas (subject to NRL approval).

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Newcastle Knights squad

1. Sione Mata’utia 2. Jake Mamo 3. Dane Gagai 4. Chanel Mata’utia 5. Carlos Tuimavave 6. Jarrod Mullen (C) 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Pat Mata’utia 9. Adam Clydsdale 10. Paterkia Vaivai 11. Tyler Randell 12. Chris Houston 13. Robbie Rochow 14. Nathan Ross 15. Korbin Sims 16. Jack Stockwell 17. Joseph Tapine 18. Danny Levi.

Coach: Rick Stone.

Gold Coast Titans Squad

1. Will Zillman 2. James Roberts 3. Anthony Don 4. David Mead 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Brad Tighe 7. Kalifa Fai Fai Loa 8. Aidan Sezer 9. Daniel Mortimer 10. Christian Hazard 11. Kierran Moseley 12. Ryan James 13. Mark Ioane 14. Luke Douglas 15. Lachlan Burr 16. Davin Crampton 17. Dave Taylor 18. Matt Robinson.

Coach: Neil Henry.

St George Illawarra Dragons

1. Euan Aitken 2. Mike Cooper 3. Shannon Crook Josh Dugan 4. Tyson Frizell 5. Craig Garvey 6. Nathan Green 7. Yaw Kiti Glymin 8. Dan Hunt 9. Beau Henry 10. Benji Marshall (C) 11. Peter Mata’utia 12. Will Matthews 13. Eto Nabuli 14. Jacob Nightingale 15. Adam Quinlan 16. Joel Thompson 17. Shannon Wakeman.

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Brisbane Broncos

1. Andrew McCullough (C) 2. Ajuma Adams 3. Elijah Alick 4. Joe Boyce 5. James Gavet 6. Greg Eden 7. Alex Glenn 8. Todd Lowrie 9. Lachlan Maranta 10. Anthony Milford 11. Francis Molo 12. Darren Nicholls 13. Jayden Nikorima 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Tom Opacic 17. Matt Parcell 18. Aaron Whitchurch.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

Canterbury Bulldogs

1. Tim Browne 2. Damien Cook 3. Adam Elliott 4. Levi Dodd 5. Herman Ese’ese 6. Antonio Kaufusi 7. Shaun Lane 8. Michael Lichaa 9. Moses Mbye 10. Josh Morris 11. Sam Perrett 12. Lloyd Perrett 13. Tyrone Phillips 14. Frank Pritchard 15. Curtis Rona 16. Corey Thompson 17. Aiden Tolman 18. Tony Williams.

Coach: Des Hasler.

Manly Sea Eagles

1. Daly Cherry-Evans (C) 2. Manaia Rudolph 3. Jayden Hodges 5. Brayden Wiliame 6. Tony Satini 7. Kieran Foran 8. Clinton Gutherson 9. Tom Trobjevic 10. Peta Hiku 11. Cheyse Blair 13. James Hasson 13. Feleti Mateo 14. Jesse Sene-Lefao 15. Josh Starling 16. Michael Chee-Kam 17. Blake Leary 18. Dunamis Lui.

Coach: Geoff Toovey.

Melbourne Storm

1. Young Tonumaipea 2. Kenny Bromwich 3. Will Chambers (C) 4. Kurt Mann 5. Richie Kennar 6. Dayne Weston 7. Cameron Munster 8. Tim Glasby 9. Hymel Hutn 10. Marika Koroibete 11. Travis Robinson 12. Christian Welch 13. Ben Hampton 14. Billy Brittain 15. Francis Tualau 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Suliasi Vunivalu 18. Shaun Nona.

Coach: Adam O’Brien

Cronulla Sharks

1. Luke Lewis 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Gerard Beale 5. Ricky Leutele 6. Jack Bird 7. Nu Brown 8. Kyle Stanley 9. Sam Tagataese 10. Pat Politoni 11. Tinirau Arona 12. Matt Prior 13. Chris Heighington 13. Blake Ayshford 14. Nathan Gardner 15. Todd Murphy 16. Sami Sauiluma 17. Junior Roqica.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

1. Joel Reddy 2. Bryson Goodwin 3. Dylan Walker 4. Matt King 5. Chris McQueen 6. Issac Luke (C) 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Angus Crichton 10. Ben Lowe 11. Jason Clark 12. Tom Hughes 13. Dave Tyrrell 14. Aaron Gray 15. Kyle Turner 16. Cameron McInnes 17. Chris Grevsmuhl 18. Setefano Taukafa.

Coach: Michael Maguire

Wests Tigers

1. Sitaleki Akauola 2. Nathan Brown 3. Jack Buchanan 4. Manaia Cherrington 5. Josh Drinkwater 6. Asipeli Fine 7. Salesi Funaki 8. Delouise Hoeter 9. Chris Lawrence (C) 10. Lamar Liolevave 11. Kyle Lovett 12. Joel Luani 13. Kevin Naiqama 14. Pat Richards 15. Brendan Santi 16. Ava Seumanafagai 17. Tim Simona 18. Sauaso Sue.

Coach: Jason Taylor.

Penrith Panthers

1. Isaah Yeo 2. Sika Manu 3. Adrian Davis 4. Kieran Moss 5. George Jennings 6. Will Smith 7. Issac John 8. Ben Murdoch-Masila 9. Api Koroisau 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Tupou Sopoaga 12. Kevin Kingston 13. Chris Smith 14. Brendan Attwood 15. Nathan Smith 16. Josh Jay 17. Andy Saunders 18. Christian Creighton.

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Sydney Roosters

1. Mitch Aubusson 2. Brendan Elliott 3. Kane Evans 4. Jackson Hastings 5. Samisoni Langi 6. Nene Macdonald 7. James Maloney 8. Willie Manu 9. Sam Moa 10. Taane Milne 11. Dylan Napa 12. Mitch Pearce 12. Lagi Setu 13. Nathan Stapleton 15. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 16. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 17. Jared Waerea-Hargraeves 18. Mitch Williams.

Coach: Trent Robinson.

Parramatta Eels

1. Will Hopoate 2. Semi Radradra 3. John Folau 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Reece Robinson 6. Corey Norman 7. Chris Sandow (C) 8. Junior Paulo 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Peni Terepo 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Joseph Paulo 14. David Gower 15. Kenny Edwards 16. Halaufau Lavaka 17. Pauli Pauli 18. Luke Kelly.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

North Queensland Cowboys

1. Michael Morgan 2. Justin O’Neill 3. Tautau Moga 4. Kyle Feldt 5. Matthew Wright 6. Ray Thompson 7. Robert Lui 8. John Asiata 9. Rory Kostjaysn 10. Kelepi Tanginoa 11. Gavin Cooper (C) 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Jake Granville 15. Zac Santo 16. Coen Hess 17. Javid Bowen 18. Ben Spina.

Coach: Paul Green.

Future rising stars of the NRL

Kane Elgey

The NRL is full of tremendously talented young kids, all vying for an opportunity to play in the NRL and make the most of it. Some have been afforded a brief chance and shown glimpses, whilst others wait with bated breath for one opportunity to show the world what they can do.

Every club has at least one talented kid that is ready to burst onto the scene and in this article, we’ll cast our eye over that very young player and why they should play in the NRL at some point in 2015. All are talented and based on their known abilities, all are expected to succeed when given a chance.

So, without further adieu, here are the young players to look out for at each respective club:

Brisbane Broncos – Joe Ofahengaue.

Broncos fans will tell you just how good Ofahengaue is and with good reason. The bullocking prop dominated the NYC last season in many respects putting on a show on almost a weekly basis and chalking up the high numbers for fun. With successive finals games in 2014 that saw him surpass 200m, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett rates the youngsters highly and at only 19, he is still growing and developing his game – a scary thought for any rival team. Whilst the Broncos boast an impressive forward pack, if injuries or suspension strike, Ofahengaue is a chance to play and when he does, the fans of any club should take notice.

Canberra Raiders – Mitch Cornish

Perhaps the youngster with the greatest pressure on his shoulders heading into 2015 is Mitch Cornish. The young local Raiders half has big shoes to fill in the team, set to become the main focal point of the club’s attack after the departure of veteran, Terry Campese. He has the ability and skills to take on the role of key-playmaker but with limited minutes in 2014 and public pressure and expectation weighing on his mind, making a successful transition will certainly not be easy. A player of his ability should handle it, though, and with the overall game to guide the Raiders attack when required, knowing what he is capable of as a player, Raiders fans will be quietly confident that he is the man to direct their side around the park.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Lloyd Perrett

The young, gun prop has already played first-grade and will have Bulldogs fans chomping at the bit to see him improve and get even better. A powerful player, Perrett has made great strides and inroads and was thus rewarded with an opportunity at the back end of 2014 by coach Des Hasler to show the NRL his talents. He showed them alright and let no-one down, as he highlighted just how good he can be and the potential he has to spearhead the Bulldogs forward pack moving forward. Highly rated in many circles, Lloyd will only get better and better as a player and as a person, two very good signs for the Bulldogs.

Cronulla Sharks – Valentine Holmes

Bursting onto the scene in 2014, it was a matter of when and not if, for Sharks fans to see Valentine Holmes in action. He certainly did not disappoint, showcasing the talent that had many fans raving at his ability, consistency and general play. Recently committing to Queensland and Australia at representative level, the future is bright for him in that regard, with the young winger’s potential to succeed astronomically high. It became quite clear that Holmes was simply too good for the Holden Cup and the NSW Cup and so the Sharks coaching staff in 2014 were forced to give the youngster a crack in first-grade where he excelled.

Gold Coast Titans – Kane Elgey

When a player has talent, it is evident no matter who they play for and for Kane Elgey at the Gold Coast Titans, despite the team not playing particularly well across the Holden Cup, he shone consistently. Perhaps their one consistent player throughout, Elgey showed why he has all the potential in the world to succeed in the NRL, on the back of a masterclass of skills and abilities in the 2014 Holden Cup. With the halves depth somewhat limited at the Titans, an opportunity may not be too far around the corner for the live-wire half and if he gets that chance, he will have deserved every bit of it.

Manly Sea Eagles – Jake Trbojevic

One of the best youngsters Manly has ever seen in their front-row stocks, Trbojevic has an opportunity to feature more at the club after the loss of some forwards and with the arrival of Willie Mason, he has a perfect mentor to guide him in his transition to the NRL. Those who are yet to see Trbojevic in action, when he has played both NSW Cup and the Holden Cup, he has led from the front for the Manly side with his big runs, big carries and big metres. With a player of his ability, Trbojevic will only get better and when he does, he has the makings of an elite prop in the NRL at both club level and representative level.

Melbourne Storm – Nelson Asofa Solomona

Solomona can be summed up in just four words. The kid can play! Solomona is absolute dynamite at all levels he has played in so far and the footage is there to prove it. Barging, fending, side-stepping, you name it, the hulking back-rower can do it all with ease and with style. Although he may not feature in first-grade straight away, with his ability, skill and potential to get even better and become even more destructive, Storm fans will be hoping that his development is executed to perfection, so that a first-grade opportunity is not too far down the track.

Newcastle Knights – Danny Levi

One of the best young talents to come out of the Knights ranks in recent times, Levi leads from the front both as a captain and as a leader. A natural play-maker despite playing most of his Knights career so far at hooker, Levi’s direction and level head has been just one of the reasons behind the Knights solid Holden Cup seasons over the last few years. With uncertainty over some positions at first-grade for the Knights, there is a chance that Levi can get a start earlier than expected, though some cards would have to fall his way for that to be the case.

North Queensland Cowboys – Javid Bowen

The surname may ring a bell and if you guessed a relation to one of the Cowboys’ greatest players in Matt Bowen, you are indeed correct. Bowen, who can cover any spot in the back-line from fullback to wing to centre, is earmarked for a first-grade opportunity and for success. With successful stints for both the Cowboys Holden Cup side and the Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup, Bowen has made himself known to Cowboys officials through his form and with talent like his, playing in the NRL is only a matter of time.

Parramatta Eels – Fabian Goodall

Equally adept as a centre or a winger, Goodall is the epitomy of a modern day winger. Big, fast, powerful and hard to stop. When he runs, he does so like a man on a mission and with nothing to lose and is hard to stop when in full flight. In many ways, in terms of likeness to a current player, he is similar to Manu Vatuvei. Both run hard, hit hard and have speed to burn. Although Goodall is not about to feature in first-grade from the get-go, he will come into contention if his NSW Cup form is good and if there are injuries in the Eels back-line. Either way, like the others, he has the potential to succeed in first-grade.

Penrith Panthers – Waqa Blake

Some quality backs have come through Penrith over the years and the club is grooming another one destined for NRL stardom and first-grade opportunities in Waqa Blake. Quickly making his mark on both the Holden Cup and the NSW Cup, the utility back is slowly proving his worth and putting his hand up for a possible surprise first-grade inclusion. Although that may not happen, he is the sort of player that will continue to work hard, play hard and do what he has to, in order to get a first-grade spot. When he does, the NRL may want to look out.

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Cam McInnes

Opportunity is nigh for McInnes, who Souths fans have been quite impressed with over the last couple of seasons for many reasons. With the departure of Koroisau, it opens up a reserve spot for McInnes and with his talent – that he has and has already shown in first-grade – he might just nab that spot on the bench. If not, what works in his favour is the fact that he will be second-choice hooker and come in if Issac Luke is injured or suspended. Whenever he does get his opportunity, McInnes will prove that it was a worthwhile decision to have him play.

St George Illawarra Dragons – Euan Aitken

With comparisons already being made to Mark Gasnier by some, the development of Euan Aitken at the Dragons will be crucial if they are to find the next big thing to play in their back-line. Aitken is a talented and versatile player and has shown his worth during the Holden Cup over the last couple of years, despite some injury issues. Not the biggest centre going around, he makes up for it with deceptiveness, zip and a smart approach to the game. His work ethic is quality and if given a chance in first-grade, his talents will certainly be on show.

Sydney Roosters – Jackson Hastings

His surname is synonymous with the Roosters but if you let that trick you into believing that Hastings Jr. cannot cut it in the NRL, think again. Blessed with a natural ability to play the game – much like his father – Jackson Hastings is a young player that Roosters fans expect to see excel moving forward. With uncertainty over some positions for 2016 especially, many feel as if that would be the perfect time to blood Hastings full-time. Versatile across the park, Hastings is quick, nippy and creative, and is equally at home at fullback and five-eighth mainly.

New Zealand Warriors – Tuimoala Lolohea

The chance to see him play arose at the 2014 Auckland Nines, as well as in first-grade late on in the 2014 season and gee whiz, did Lolohea make an impact! When you watch him play and strut his stuff on a rugby league field, it is easy to see why both the Warriors fans and the Warriors franchise rate the utility so highly. Equally adept at both fullback and five-eighth – not to mention any other position in the back-line, really – his development is crucial. Whilst he ended 2014 with injury, Lolohea is sure to start 2015 off with a bang, with the view to once again playing first-grade in 2015.

Wests Tigers – Manaia Cherrington

Knowing that Robbie Farah will not be able to play forever, contingency plans are required. In a sign that the Tigers want to continue their tradition of quality hookers at the NRL level, they have spent a lot of time investing in one player in particular – Manaia Cherrington. Making the spot his own over the last couple of years in the Holden Cup, Cherrington is a player that is highly rated by many Tigers fans and one that they have earmarked for NRL success. As he continues his development over the next couple of years, it is only a matter of time before he gets a chance to showcase his talents in the NRL.

Widnes strengthen forward rotation with signing of Wigan prop

Gil Dudson

Showing their intent even before the season has started, the Widnes Vikings continue to go from strength-to-strength and have signed another quality player for the the next couple of seasons.

That player is Wigan prop Gil Dudson, who has joined the Vikings on a 2-year deal from the Wigan Warriors.

One man who has been a key figure behind the signings and the turnaround of the club has been coach Denis Betts. He lauded the signing of Dudson and said the club had been looking at the prop for some time.

“The signing of Gil Dudson shows a real ambition about what we are trying to do at the Vikings,” said Betts.

“We don’t pick up players without doing our homework. We’ve been talking about Gil for a number of months and he’s a player we have had to be a little bit patient with.

We spoke at the end of last year about the need for a bit more size in our team. Bringing Manase Manuokafoa in showed we were looking for big men.

It’s great that we have been able to get Gil to join us. Signing Gil shows our drive and ambition to make this squad stronger with the right kind of people.”

With international exposure behind him and still room to grow as a player, Betts is excited to have Dudson on board to see what impact the prop can have at the club.

“He is big, he’s strong, he’s got international pedigree, and I think he is young enough to really make a massive mark in the game over the next few years,” said Betts.

“As a Club we are ambitious and we think Gil is the right fit to move forward with us as a team.

Gil is highly regarded by his peers, so it will be nice to see how he settles in over the next few weeks, and hopefully he will sail through a massive year in 2015.”

Vikings CEO James Rule also weighed in on the signing, highlighting the ambitious nature of the club to succeed.

“I am delighted that we have secured Gil Dudson,” said Rule.

“Denis has some ambitious plans for the team this year and Gil’s abilities fit nicely into those plans.”

The financial contribution offered by the Vikings Quid’s In scheme (VIQI) was an integral part in making this signing possible.”

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