World Cup Nines: Players To Watch

Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen

The NRL and Super League seasons may be done and dusted but there is still plenty of rugby league.

The most exciting perhaps, is the World Cup Nines tournament.

Revisiting the concept on a global scale, players from across the world will be on show to both win and earn playing contracts, should they not already have one.

With exciting talent and new talent on the rise, the World Cup Nines is proving to be a competition to watch with bated breath.

With so much talent to choose from, here are our picks for the talents to keep an eye on from each side:

Australia: Ryan Papenhuyzen, potentially a surprise pick as not only a Nines selection but as a player to watch.
However, the nimble Melbourne Storm fullback had a debut season to remember, bamboozling and wrong-footing defenders with quick feet.

The Nines are perfectly suited for his abilities where, in open space, he will be able to find holes, exploit gaps and support the forwards through the middle.


New Zealand: Braden Hamlin-Uele had a breakout year in the NRL for the Cronulla Sharks this season, providing them with punch and starch.

Cronulla Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele

The Kiwis will be hoping for much of the same from the hulking prop, who has shown a good work-rate, a strong motor and a tendency to bulldoze.

With early metres so crucial to gain an ascendancy, a player of Hamlin-Uele’s size is an added bonus for a Kiwi side littered with talent.


Tonga: Fanitesi Niu is a name that we may hear a lot more of, and the kid can play, if you believe Brisbane Broncos fans. 

Brisbane Broncos utility back Fanitesi Niu

A versatile utility back, Niu has all the tools to succeed in the Nines format and at the top level. Pace, agility, strength, he could be a surprise packet as he stakes an NRL claim.

With an impressive tournament among some current top players, Niu’s career trajectory could be set for a big change.


Samoa: Luciano Leilua has taken perhaps a bit longer to hit the consistent level fans expected of him but now that he has? Well, look out. 

St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Luciano Leilua

A barnstorming back-rower with size and a big engine to boot, he will run at defenders all day and look to create additional chances to attack.

In a Samoan side that perhaps lacks elite halves, his influence on the edges to create chances may be a key for Samoan wins.


England: George Williams is Canberra bound in 2020 and both Canberra Raiders fans and NRL fans will get their first look at him in this tournament. 

Incoming Canberra Raiders half George Williams

An elite half at the English level, Williams’ guile, tenacity and deft kicking, will be valuable attributes both for Canberra and England.

In attacking positions, Williams’ class is expected to shine through and give England as many chances as possible to score.


Wales: Regan Grace, a prodigious talent that has burst onto the scene for St Helens. Scoring tries for fun, his finishing abilities have put the Super League on notice. 

St Helens winger Regan Grace

Those skills will be perfectly suited to the Nines format, where he can use a combination of pace, natural ability and finishing, to capitalise on Welsh chances.

Although many do not give them a chance, it is players like Grace who can put them in winning positions.


France: Jason Baitieri, now an elder statesman of the game, is the leadership you want in your side. 

Catalans Dragons forward Jason Baitieri

His name may sound familiar to Australian fans but it is his time at Catalans Dragons that has seen him excel.

His experience will prove invaluable for a relatively young French side, as they look to cause some upsets.


Lebanon: Reece Robinson will look to use all his experience and nous to help an inexperienced Lebanese side produce results.

Not the side many were expecting for this tournament, off-field dramas have seen no major NRL stars selected.

So it is Robinson, a multiple NRL representative, that will lead the young pups into what will be their toughest challenge yet.


Cook Islands:Brad Takairangi has been around the NRL for a while and now has the chance to produce in the Nines format. 

Parramatta Eels utility Brad Takairangi

With a Cook Islands side that has several players probably unknown to fans, the experience alone will be an honour for these players.


Papua New Guinea: Garry Lo, a prolific try-scorer, looms as a key attacking threat for Papua New Guinea. 

Papua New Guinea winger Garry Lo

No stranger to creating opportunities and scoring, he leads a bevvy of talented Papua New Guinean players on the rise.


Plenty of talent to keep an eye on and plenty of exciting games are just around the corner.

Storm prop Asofa-Solomona caught on video throwing punches in Bali

Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona

The NRL can ill-afford off-field attention but it has once again, with Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona caught throwing punches in a viral video. 

The video has been seen by hundreds and thousands across Australia, as the Storm confirmed the incident involving their hulking prop.

Outside the popular Seminyak area, numerous outlets such as The Herald Sun are reporting that the man called NAS, was retaliating to a king-hit suffered by teammate Suliasi Vunivalu.

The matter has since been referred to the NRL Integrity Unit as they now investigate the matter and the sequence of events.

The Storm issued a brief statement on the matter, although did not name Asofa-Solomona in it. They are treating it seriously.

“Melbourne Storm has reported an incident involving a member of our NRL squad currently on holidays in Bali to the NRL’s Integrity Unit.

Storm has launched a full investigation into what has occurred.

Storm takes these type of incidents very seriously and will not be making any further public comment at this time.”

Arriving home from Melbourne this morning, Asofa-Solomona spoke briefly to a reporter without stopping and said his side of the story would soon be told.

A nightclub owner has this morning come out defending Asofa-Solomona, pointing out that what the video shows does not portray the full story.

“It’s so bad because they don’t see the reality (of) what happened before,” Assiego told 9 News.

“His reaction was aggressive for sure but … I feel sorry for him.”

 

Tigers grant Marsters immediate release

Departing Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters

His 2019 season saw a dip in form and many Wests Tigers fans reluctant to retain him, and so, an immediate release will see Esan Marsters join a rival NRL club. 

Although not confirmed, that club is expected to be the North Queensland Cowboys.

Since making his debut for the Tigers and in the NRL back in 2017, Marsters has played in 61 games with 17 tries to his name.

With a chance for more opportunity and his reported club the Cowboys needing established centres, the Tigers gave him their well wishes.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, I’d like to thank Esan for his contribution to Wests Tigers,” Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said.

“We were able to give Esan his first-grade debut several years ago and it’s been pleasing to see him grow and contribute in numerous ways since then.

“This new long-term deal is a great opportunity for him and we wish both he and his partner Isabelle all the best in the future.”

With Marsters’ move to the Cowboys now confirmed, fans will be hoping the Kiwi international can recapture his 2018 form.

“Esan is a high-quality centre, he’s an international and we believe he is one of the more dangerous outside backs in the NRL,” Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said.

“The outside backs is an area we have been looking to increase our depth and we believe Esan is going to be a quality signing for our squad for 2020 and beyond.

“He’s only 23, so his best football is still in front of him, which is exciting considering what he has already achieved in his career.”

Rugby League World 9s

We had the NRL Nines before that disappeared but the Nines are back! This time, in the form of the Rugby League World 9s.

Scheduled to be played at Bankwest Stadium over two days (the 18th and 19th of October), it promises to be a ripper two days.

Twelve nations will start the tournament in the men’s game and four in the women’s game but only team can take it out in both.

The teams are Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, PNG, England, France, Samoa, Wales, Lebanon, Cook Islands and the United States.

For the women, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and England will do battle.

All the teams as they filter through will be named here so sit back, relax, and enjoy the litany of quality named by the sides.

We’ll also add in a little breakdown of each team after they’re listed and what their chances are.


Australia: Josh Addo-Carr, Ryan Papenhuyzen & Curtis Scott (all Melbourne Storm). Jai Arrow & AJ Brimson (both Gold Coast Titans). Nathan Brown, Mitch Moses & Clint Gutherson (all Parramatta Eels). Kyle Feldt (North Queensland Cowboys).
Reubenn Garrick (Manly Sea Eagles). Wade Graham (Cronulla Sharks). David Fifita (Wakefield). Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons). Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights). Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs).

Coach: Mal Meninga.
Kezie Apps, Shaylee Bent, Brittany Breayley, Keeley Davis, Tiana Penitani, Jess Sergis, Shakiah Tungai & Botille Vette-Welsh (all St George Illawarra Dragons).
Ali Brigginshaw, Millie Boyle, Julia Robinson & Tamika Upton (all Brisbane Broncos).
Kirra Dibb, Tallisha Harden, Isabelle Kelly, Hannah Southwell & Corban McGregor (all Sydney Roosters).
Ricky’s View: Some surprise selections for the tournament by the Kangaroos but it is, nevertheless, a formidable side.
With speed out wide in Josh Addo-Carr, grunt through the middle with Nathan Brown and David Fifita and composed halves in Ben Hunt and Mitchell Moses, they will call the shots and dictate the Australian chances.
Despite several bigger names being saved or used for the Test match, this is still a side that you would expect will go in as favourites to win.
The women’s team also boasts some big names, fresh off strong performances in the NRL Women’s Championship. Relying on their experience, they will be one of the teams to beat in the women’s tournament.

Cook Islands: Tevin Arona & Junior Pua (both Canterbury Bulls), Anthony Gelling (Widnes Vikings), Alex Glenn (Brisbane Broncos), Kayal Iro & Brodie Tamarua (both New Zealand Warriors), Steven Marsters (St George Illawarra Dragons), Sam Mataora (Belconnen United), Tepai Moeroa & Brad Takairangi (both Parramatta Eels), Moses Noovao-McGreal & Paul Ulberg (both Norths Devils), John Puna (Easts Tigers), Reubenn Rennie & Vincent Rennie (both Mounties RLFC) & Aaron Teroi (Central Queensland Capras)

Coach: Tony Iro

Ricky’s View: Although the Cook Islands do possess some NRL pedigree in Waratahs bound Tepai Moeroa and Eels utility Brad Takairangi, it probably will not be enough to cause any ripples.

They will try their hearts out and the Kukis will have their time to cheer, but the bigger, stronger sides, will overpower their efforts.


England: James Graham & Gareth Widdop (both St George Illawarra Dragons). Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs). Daryl Clark & Blake Austin (both Warrington Wolves). Jake Connor (Hull FC). Ryan Hall (Sydney Roosters). Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos).
Reece Lyne (Wakefield Trinity). Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants). Ryan Sutton & Elliott Whitehead (both Canberra Raiders).
Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons). Jake Trueman & Liam Watts (both Castleford Tigers). George Williams (Wigan Warriors).

Coach: Wayne Bennett.
Dannielle Anderson & Caitlin Beevers (both Leeds Rhinos). Leah Burke, Chantelle Crowl, Jodie Cunningham, Faye Gaskin, Shona Hoyle, Emily Rudge & Naomi Williams (all St Helens).
Kelsey Gentles, Rhiannion Marshall, Sinead Peach, Georgia Roche & Tara-Jane Stanley (all Castleford Tigers). Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls). Georgia Wilson (Wigan Warriors).
Ricky’s View: Another jam-packed line-up and one that will look to perhaps surprise a few come game time. With experience, youth and class all on their side, England will hope it works in their favour.
Arguably, their side boasts just as much attacking talent and weapons as any other, with a mix from the NRL and the Super League to take part.
Canberra-bound George Williams may be the key, as he has a chance to show Raiders fans why coach Ricky Stuart was so eager to get him on board.

Fiji: Kevin Naiqama (St Helens) (C), Suliasi Vunivalu & Isaac Lumelume (both Melbourne Storm), Waqa Blake & Maika Sivo (both Parramatta Eels), Brayden Wiliame (Catalans Dragons), Mika Ravalawa (St George Illawarra Dragons), Penioni Tagituimua (Nadera Panthers), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles), Silistino Ravutaumada & Taane Milne (both New Zealand Warriors), Viliame Kikau, (Penrith Panthers),  Penaia Leveleve (Nabua Broncos), Maika Tudravu (Army Bears), Joseva Lawalawa (Ravoravo Rabbitohs) & Luke Nadurutalo (unattached).

Coach: Brandon Costin.

Ricky’s View: The back five will be star-studded, boasting experience, speed, pace, raw power and the ability to change a game.

Where Fiji might struggle, however, is in the middle. For, it is there, where the land is barren and where the struggles may arise.

If the outside backs can excel like most Fijian backs do, it could be the key for Fiji to succeed.


France: Lilian Albert, Charlie Bouzinac (both FC Lezignan). Bastien Canet (AS Carcassonne), Louis Jouffret (Batley Bulldogs), Thomas Lasvenes (Villenueve XIII), Hakim Miloudi (Toronto Wolfpack) & Arthur Mourgues (St Esteve XIII Catalans).
Jordan Dezaria, Paul Marcon, Gavin Marguerite, Justin Sangare & Jusseaume Mathieu (all Toulouse Olympique).
Lucas Albert, Jason Baitieri, Alrix da Costa, Lambert Belmas & Arthur Romano (all Catalans Dragons).

Coach: Aurelien Cologni
Ricky’s View: Most will not have heard of many of these players but it is great to see France playing in and gaining recognition on the international arena once more.
Their side is made up of mostly French-based players, with just the one in Hakim Miloudi playing outside of the country with the Toronto Wolfpack.
They probably will not be in contention for higher honours but the fact that Les Bleus are back is a great sign.

Lebanon: Kayne Kalache, James Roumanos & Elie El-Zakhem (all Canterbury Bulldogs). Reece Robinson (Queanbeyan Kangaroos). Travis Robinson (Newtown Jets), Jacob Kiraz (North Queensland Cowboys), Jalal Bazzaz (St George Illawarra Dragons), Anthony Layoun (Mounties RLFC), Bilal Maarbani (Manly Sea Eagles), Jayden El-Jalkh (Wests Magpies), Adam Rizk & Josh Rizk (both Ryde-Eastwood Hawks), John-Paul Nohra & Charbel Tasipale (both Parramatta Eels), Johnny-Lee Gabriel (Balmain) & Ahmad Haraljy (USA Sevens).

Coach: Rick Stone.

Ricky’s View: It pains me to say this after their good fortunes at the World Cup, but sadly, I don’t give Lebanon much hope.

Had the disputes over essentially nothing not originated, they would have been blessed with a bevvy of elite NRL talent.

The same talent that saw them become a fan favourite at the last World Cup.


New Zealand: Leeson Ah Mau, Ken Maumalo & Kodi Nikorima (all New Zealand Warriors). Dylan Brown (Parramatta Eels). James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers). Corey Harawira-Naera, Jeremy Marshall-King & Reimis Smith (all Canterbury Bulldogs).
Shaun Johnson, Briton Nikora & Braden Hamlin-Uele (all Cronulla Sharks). Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans). Jordan Rapana, Joseph Tapine & Bailey Simonsson (all Canberra Raiders). Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos).

Coach: Michael Maguire
Madison Bartlett, Georgia Hale, Honey Hireme, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Jules Newman, Apii Nicholls, Charntay Poko, Krystal Rota, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Crystal Tamarua & Atawhai Tupaea (all New Zealand Warriors).
Teuila Fotu-Moala (St George Illawarra Dragons). Lavinia Gould & Raecene McGregor (both Brisbane Broncos). Nita Maynard & Kiana Takairangi (both Sydney Roosters).
Ricky’s View: Quite a few surprise selections here with six debutants and other elite players being saved for the Tests.
With that in mind, there is a good level of quality and finesse about this Kiwi 9s side, allowing the younger generation to make a name for themselves on the world stage.
The women’s team will not rest on their laurels either, as they look to make a big splash with their star-studded line-up.
The experience of Honey Hireme mixed with the youth of Charntay Poko, makes for an interesting dynamic for the Kiwi Ferns.

Papua New Guinea (PNG): Stargroth Amean & Wartovo Puara (both Barrow Raiders). Watson Boas (Doncaster RLFC). Edwin Epape & Edene Gebbie (both Wynnum-Manly Seagulls). Bernard Lewis (Sydney Roosters). Kyle Laybutt (Townsville Blackhawks).
Garry Lo & Moses Meninga (both PNG Hunters). Rhyse Martin (Leeds Rhinos), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm), Nixon Putt (Norths Devils), Dan Russell (North Queensland Cowboys), Jedudiah Simbiken (Redcliffe Dolphins), Stanford Talita (Hela Wigmen) & Terry Wapi (PNG Hunters).

Coach: Michael Marum
Elsie Albert (UNRE Cowgirls). Catherine Anjo (Hohola Flies). Heather Ario & Carol Francis (both Gabutu Dragons). Lekiellia Brown (Wentworthville Magpies). Shae-Yvonne Dela Cruz (Easts Tigers). Shirley Joe (Eriku Panthers).
Janet Johns (Hanuabada Hawks). Roswita Kapo (Paga Panthers). Sera Koroi (Goodna Eagles). Ua Ravu (Leeton Greens). Jacobeth Wake (Royas Ramu League). Joyce Waula (Blackswan Royals).
Veronica Waula (Royals Rugby League). Angelo Watego (Capalaba Warriors) & Josephine Wong (Nightcliff Dragons).
Ricky’s View: In recent years, Papua New Guinean players have slowly ventured away from playing solely in their home country, to playing in England and Australia.
Garry Lo, Rhyse Martin, Justin Olam and Bernard Lewis are the four names that will stand out for many, with the quartet involved or previously involved with top-tier clubs.
Although they may not win any games – though, anything can happen – they will play with heart, passion and ticker, such is both theirs and their fans love for the game.
The women’s team will be in the same boat. They will give it their all and play the last minute with the same resolve as they do the first.

Samoa: Bunty Afoa & Ligi Sao (both New Zealand Warriors). Dean Blore, Moses Leota, Jarome Luai & Brian To’o (all Penrith Panthers). Michael Chee-Kam & David Nofoaluma (both Wests Tigers). Tino Fa’asuamaleaui & Marion Seve (both Melbourne Storm). Tim Lafai & Luciano Leilua (both St George Illawarra Dragons). Joey Leilua (Canberra Raiders). Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights). Lalatoa Mafa’afa (Canterbury Bulldogs) & Jorge Taufua (Manly Sea Eagles).

Ricky’s View: Another team blessed with efficient backs, yet struggling for game-changing, standout halves.

It will not stop them from having a dig and they will draw on their NRL experience across the team.

Though may fall just short of the final hurdle, but are good enough to jag a semi final spot.

Coach: Matt Parish


Tonga: John Asiata, Jason Taumalolo and Peter Hola (all North Queensland Cowboys). William Fakatoumafi (New Zealand Warriors). Andrew Fifita and Sione Katoa (both Cronulla Sharks). Tevita Funa (Manly Sea Eagles). Delouise Hoeter (Manly Sea Eagles). Jamil Hopoate, Fanitesi Niu, Joe Ofahengaue & Tevita Pangai Jr. (all Brisbane Broncos). Sione Katoa & Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (both Penrith Panthers). Tuipolutu Katoa (Canterbury Bulldogs). Robert Jennings (Wests Tigers).

Ricky’s View: If there is one team that is going to challenge the top sides, this Tongan side is that team.

With the board dispute resolved following a change and intervention by the Government, they are ready to rumble.

With huge, hulking players in Taumalolo, Hola and Pangai, these three have the potential to tear teams up the middle and cause havoc.

That, of course, allows the smaller men around the ruck and out wide to simply finish tries.

They will be an entertaining side to watch.


Wales: Rhys Evans, Dalton Grant & Cobi Green (all Bradford Bulls). Will Evans (Burleigh Bears). Connor Davies, Curtis Davies & Dan Fleming (Halifax RLFC). Elliot Kear & Rhys Williams (London Broncos RL). Lloyd White (Mackay Cutters). Regan Grace (St Helens). Gavin Bennion, Mike Butt & Rhodri Lloyd (all Swinton Lions). Ben Evans (Toulouse Olympique). James Olds (Wests Brisbane Panthers).

Ricky’s View: The Welsh team will come over with a fire in the belly, eager to prove themselves on the international stage.

With players that have been capped numerous times already and played on the big stage before at World Cups, they will not be daunted by the sheer weight of the task at hand.

They will come prepared and they will come with resolve, and that is all you can ask, with a few potential surprise wins along the way.


United States: David Washington, Charlie Jones and Khalial Harris (all Jacksonville Axemen). Ryan Burroughs (RU), Bureta Faraimo (Hull FC), Corey Makelim (Sheffield Eagles), Danny Howard (Wentworthville Magpies), Jerome View (Souths Logan Magpies), Kristian Freed (Wests Mitchelton), Jay Florimo (The Entrance), Eddy Pettybourne (Central Queensland Capras), Joe Eichner (Northern Pride), Mark Offerdahl (Goondawindi), Junior Vaivai (Toulouse Olympique XIII) & Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla Sharks).
Jamil Robinson, Marcus Satavu, Brandon Anderson, Connor Donohue & Brock Davies (all Brooklyn Kings).

Ricky’s View: This US side will have plenty of heart, ticker and drive, though the relative lack of experience at the highest level will likely see them falter.

Although, they do boast an exciting talent in Cronulla Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo, who has impressed since making his club debut.

He is eligible due to his family ties with American Samoa.


 

What We Learned from the Canterbury Cup Decider

Newtown Jets 2019 Canterbury Cup success

While all eyes were focused on the stellar performances of the Roosters and the Raiders last week, many Rugby League supporters missed the enthralling finish to the Canterbury Cup competition.

After controversy over the league’s decision to overlook the idea of holding the game as a curtain-raiser for the Raiders preliminary final, Bankwest Stadium would host the Newtown Jets and the Wentworthville Magpies – two teams that extraordinarily made the big dance from seventh and eighth on the ladder respectively.

With the scores locked at 14-all at full-time, the Magpies secured the first lead of extra-time with a field goal, before an outlandish team effort from the Jets secured the 20-15 victory.

So, as the Jets progress to face the Burleigh Bears in this week’s State Championship, here are five things we learned from the epic finale of the Canterbury Cup.

  1. The System is a Winner

Many involved in the creation of rugby league’s junior pathways were eager to discover the potential success of the new competition format in 2019 after the dissolution of the Holden Cup for Under 20’s.

This season – topped off by the exhilarating grand final – has proven that the NRL and the ARLC have got the recipe spot on.

One only has to look at the score sheet from Sunday’s decider to see the solid mix of youth and experience that the competition combines, with Newtown’s Ronaldo Mulitalo, Scott Sorensen and William Kennedy appearing alongside the established NRL names of Josh Hoffman and George Jennings for Wentworthville.

The competition’s new format has enabled great potential for individual growth for younger players as they line-up with and against stars of the present and the past.

This was exemplified by the Western Suburbs Magpies, whose stars of the future were provided with the opportunity to play alongside the trio of Josh Reynolds, Robbie Rochow and Chris McQueen in 2019.

Between them, they had over 400 games of first-grade experience for seven different clubs.

  1. The Future is Bright for Cronulla

When analysing the line-up of their feeder club Newtown, it is evident that the future is bright for the Cronulla Sharks as a wealth of young talent makes its way through the club’s development systems.

While Matt Moylan is expected to hold onto the number one jersey for 2020, Jets fullback and man-of-the-match William Kennedy will undoubtedly begin to pressure John Morris into providing him with more first-grade experience after a stellar performance on the big stage.

Kennedy combined with fellow Sharks’ prodigy Ronaldo Mulitalo for the Jets’ first try of the game and led his team in running metres with 248 metres gained across sixteen carries.

With the departure of his brother Jayden to Newcastle, Blayke Brailey is set to feature in the number nine jersey for the Sharks in 2020 as he made 48 tackles and played the full ninety minutes. At halfback, Braydon Trindall had a strong game, kicking fourteen times for 392 metres and slotting three conversions including a clutch goal to send the game into extra time.

In the engine room, Sharks development players Jaimin Jolliffe and Toby Rudolf combined for 76 tackles at an efficiency rate of 92.7%.

  1. Billy Magoulias is a Future Star:

Only adding to Cronulla’s pool of young talent is the man dubbed ‘Gal Jr.’, Billy Magoulias.

Touted as the long-term replacement for the Sharks’ skipper, Magoulias made his NRL debut in Round 19, coming off the bench to help his team secure a two-point victory over North Queensland.

While the lock-forward is known for his consistent work ethic on defence and hard-hitting runs in attack, it was Magoulias’ playmaking skills that caught the eyes of many in the Canterbury Cup Grand Final.

He grubbered through for Scott Sorensen to score the Jets’ second try of the match, before Magoulias had a major role in the match-defining play by placing a perfectly weighted chip kick onto the chest of Tyrone Phillips who sent William Kennedy racing away to score.

With Wade Graham on the left edge and Briton Nikora patrolling the right, Magoulias should round out a back row that is set to become a part of one of the league’s most potent forward packs in 2020.

  1. The Eels are Flush with back-line Talent:

While Cronulla are evidently stacked with future stars, the Magpies’ line-up proved that the Eels possess considerable depth in positions one through seven.

Should Dylan Brown or Mitchell Moses miss any time through injury or potential representative duties in 2020, the Eels will be well covered in the halves by Jaeman Salmon and Rhys Davies.

Salmon was provided limited NRL experience in the early stages of 2019 and showed glimpses of promise, while Davies has excelled in reserve grade, tallying 136 points and 15 try assists across 28 appearances this season.

Out wide, Greg Leleisiuao was tipped to challenge Maika Sivo for the starting wing spot to start this season but was narrowly overlooked in favour of the Fijian flyer.

He has done his case for future selection no harm with 12 tries, second only in the Magpies outfit to Bevan French.

Likewise, Ethan Parry has impressed in attack and defence with nine tries, six line-breaks and an average of 98 metres gained per game.

His moment of the final came in the 44th minute as he shrewdly came across in cover defence to block a pass that would have led to the Jets taking the lead.

  1. Extra-Time is the Way to Go:

While golden point provided us with the thrilling finals conclusions to the 2015 Grand Final and 2010 qualifying final between the Roosters and the Tigers, it has come under fire in 2019 for producing results that have a greater reliance on luck than skill.

Golden point for the finals was scrapped in 2016, less than a year after Jonathan Thurston’s history-making field goal at ANZ Stadium. In its place, the NRL has re-introduced the ten-minute extra-time period, as was seen in the famous 1989 NSWRL decider between Canberra and Balmain.

Should Sunday’s decider have been determined by Golden Point, the game would have reached its conclusion with Jaeman Salmon’s 82nd minute field goal, robbing fans of the opportunity to witness one of the all-time great Rugby League grand final plays.

By providing oppositions with the right of reply following a field goal, the NRL is hoping to produce fairer results that don’t detract from the excitement and suspense of Golden Point.

This game proved exactly that.

Will we see extra-time in this week’s NRL decider? Only time will tell.

Thomas Beauchamp is a Journalism Student at the University of Technology Sydney. You can follow him on Twitter at @T_Beauchamp23.

The Silent Grand Final Week

NRL referee Ben Cummins

The media is buzzing, open training sessions, midweek Viking claps, the most talked about Calf in the world this week. It can only mean one thing………IT’S GRAND FINAL WEEK.

6 teams preparing to play the game of their lives.

Best of Luck to the Burleigh Bears, Newtown Jets, Brisbane Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders. It all comes down to this.

But it’s not just 6 teams that face the pre game nerves, the training, the realisation that all their hard work has paid off and they have made it to the big show.

The 7th team is involved in every game this week have also named their team in the last 48 hours.

Families celebrating about who got picked and disappointed people for those who missed out.

The 7th team named for the big dance is as follows – Morel, Nolan, Schwass, Badger, Whitehouse, Teague, Brough, Smith, Maxwell, Galea, Beashel, Butler, Sutton & Cummins.

Yes, the 7th team, is the officials for the 3 games. The men and women in the middle, on the touch line and in the bunker that will be judged by how little impact they have on the game.

This is the silent grand final week. Minimal media (outside of the appointment announcement), No fans at training, no special Nordic whistle blowing welcome on to the ground.

The thankless job, that no matter how well the game is officiated this weekend, the best the refs can hope for while receiving their game medallions (one of their proudest career moments), is to not be booed too loud.

NRL referee Gerard Sutton

Grand final week, just like the players, will be one that the referees coaches will be hoping is without drama, has plenty of focus and hard work, and has a favourable ending on Sunday night.

Saturday morning and Sunday morning respectively would have been recovery. Monday morning, the team would meet for video review of the weekend games.

Potentially Monday afternoon, but more likely Tuesday, the appointments would have been announced.

No real fanfare, 2 very happy referees, 2 very happy touch judges and the bunker officials.

But there will always be the disappointment and what ifs?

Grant Atkins and Adam Gee, both perilously close to the best moment of their careers, but falling one game short.

NRL referee and touch judge Chris Butler

While the appointments of the NRL grand final were as expected, there was a feeling that just maybe, the NRL would go with one of the teams that ran games last weekend – Sutton/Gee or Cummins/Atkins.

I would have loved to have seen Cummins/ Atkins get a go, but Sutton has friends (or brothers) in high places.

However, putting aside their disappointment, one, or potentially both Atkins and Gee will need to be ready for Sunday as they will be the standby ref.

I don’t know whether you’ve seen how the referees train, but it is mind blowing just how fit these athletes (and yes, they are athletes) are.

Conditioning work would rival most NRL teams without the need for as much weights training.

Then it is on to the gameday training. One of the most amazing pieces of equipment is the decision treadmill.

Referees are asked to run whilst watching a game of footy.

During this game, they need to take on the role of referee, make decisions under fatigue and all of this is video reviewed to check for correctness under pressure and fatigue.

While we all like to give the refs a piece of our mind when things aren’t great or your team isn’t going well, I guarantee one thing – that referees never want the game to be about them.

NRL referee Ben Cummins

The less noise, the better game.

This is the grand final week we don’t hear about, the grand final team most of us don’t give 2 thoughts about in the lead up, but the grand final would not happen without our referees and officials.

Good luck to all players and officials this weekend and if you can find it in your heart, please don’t boo when they get their recognition.

They’ve put in more work over their careers than most and will never have a trading card, never get asked for an autograph and are still more unpopular than a parking cop.

Good Luck team 7. “Six to go, play on”

The Rulebook

2019 Grand Final day preview

Newtown Jets player Scott Sorenson in first-grade

We now kno who will play who in each game on 2019 grand final day.

The day will mark the end of all regular season club games for the main Australian competitions and this will take place live and free on channel 9.

INTRUST SUPER CHAMPIONSHIP

NEWTOWN JETS VS BURLEIGH BEARS

To kick off the day in Sydney, the Intrust Super Championship game will see the Newtown Jets take on the Burleigh Bears.

The Bears finished the Intrust Super Cup regular season 3rd on the ladder with 17 wins and 6 losses.

They had to beat the Wynnum Manly Seagulls and the Sunshine Coast Falcons to qualify for the Grand Final.

Triumphant in the ISC grand final, the Burleigh Bears defeated the Wynnum Manly Seagulls 28-10 to qualify for the championship game.

On the other hand, the Newtown Jets finished 7th on the ladder in the Canterbury cup with 11 wins, 1 draw and 10 losses.

Newtown Jets fullback Will Kennedy

Even though they were heavy outsiders, they would go on a magical run through the finals.

This started off with a 44-20 win over the Mount Pritchard Mounties.

The following week, they defeated the 3rd place Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs with a late try to advance to the prelims.

In the preliminary final, they defeated the minor premiers, the St George Illawarra Dragons, to advance to the grand final.

The clash against the Wentworthville Magpies was an epic.

After the culmination of 80 minutes, we didn’t have a winner. 14-all with 10 minutes of extra time to play.

2019 Intrust Super Cup winners Burleigh

The Magpies took the early lead with a field goal but William Kennedy would score the game winning try in extra time.

Will the Newtown Jets continue their underdog run through the finals?

Will the Burleigh Bears be the first QLD team to win the championship since 2015?

HOLDEN WOMENS PREMIERSHIP

BRISBANE BRONCOS VS ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

Following the Intrust Super Championship, the second Holden Women’s Championship winner will be decided.

The Brisbane Broncos have been the powerhouse of the NRLW since its conception.

They proved this earlier in the year by defeating the St George Illawarra Dragons In Round 1, 14-4.

Following this was a 20-0 win over the Sydney Roosters in round 2 but they would suffer their first ever loss in round 3.

Brisbane Broncos women’s team

This was a 10-8 loss to the New Zealand Warriors. These results were enough to get the Broncos the minor premiership.

The St George Illawarra Dragons on the other hand, came into this season with the wooden spoon of the previous season to their name.

Even with this, they came into the season as premiership favourites.

They started the season in round 1 with the Broncos leaving a 14-4 dent in their premiership favourite hopes.

However, they turned this around with a 26-6 win over the New Zealand Warriors and a 24-16 win over the Sydney Roosters.

This got them into second position on the ladder by for and against points.

St George Illawarra women’s team

Will the defending premiers and minor premiers of the Brisbane Broncos emulate the men of 1992 and 1993 and go back-to-back?

Will the Dragons make good of the preseason premiership hopes?

TELSTRA PREMIERSHIP

SYDNEY ROOSTERS VS CANBERRA RAIDERS

The main event of the day, the Telstra Premiership grand final.

The Sydney Roosters host the Canberra Raiders in a must-see clash to decide the 112th Telstra Premiership winner.

The Sydney Roosters came into the season as heavy favourites to go back-to-back to win the premiership.

They proved that this could very well come true in the regular season as they finished 2nd on the ladder with 17 wins and 7 losses.

In the first qualifying final, they laid on an attacking masterclass against the 3rd place South Sydney Rabbitohs at the SCG.

2018 premiers Sydney Roosters

They ran away with the 30-6 win to earn a bye and a ticket to the preliminary finals.

In the preliminary finals, they matched up with the minor premiers, the Melbourne Storm at the SCG.

Though it wasn’t as high-scoring as the qualifying final, they showed their defensive capabilities for a 14-6 win to earn a spot in the grand final.

The Canberra Raiders came into the season with many people having them in the bottom 8.

Not many people will have expected the resurgence of the former powerhouse we had in the 80s and 90s in the days of Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley.

They proved the doubters wrong and finished 4th on the ladder with 15 wins and 9 losses.

Canberra Raiders’ players

In the second qualifying final, they faced the 1st placed Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

A late game winning try from John Bateman gave them a bye and a home preliminary final.

In the preliminary, they proved to be as tough as a brick wall defensively to win 16-10 and book a spot in the grand final.

Will the Sydney Roosters be the first team to go back-to-back since the 1992 and 1993 Brisbane Broncos?

Will the Canberra Raiders win their first premiership since 1994?

All of our questions will be answered live and free on Channel 9 on Sunday.

Shane Flanagan to the St George Illawarra Dragons

Former Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan

In 2013, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) launched an investigation into the Sharks supplements program.

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks used this program during the 2011 season.

At the time, the head coach was Shane Flanagan and he was the one who lead the program.

The NRL caught the Sharks using illicit substances during this program and subsequently handed many players and staff members lengthy bans.

It was not until 2018 that the NRL found out that Shane Flanagan had sent over 50 emails to the Sharks management.

The ban strictly prohibited this.

Due to these emails, the NRL de-registered Shane Flanagan from coaching in the NRL.

John Morris would take over as the Sharks head coach in 2019 as Flanagan fought to be able to coach again.

This was successful as after the 2019 season, the NRL re-instated Flanagan into coaching in the NRL.

St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor

This was with a clause that Flanagan can not be a head coach until 2022.

Flanagan has been signed by the St George Illawarra Dragons to be the assistant coach to Paul McGregor.

Many different news sites reported this throughout the week as well as NRL 360 on Monday night.

Buzz Rothfield said that this signing was due to Phil Gould’s assessment and report on the Dragons.

Will Shane Flanagan help lead to the Dragons to a top 8 finish?

Maybe even a premiership? We will see next year.

Roosters hold off Storm to make NRL grand final

Sydney Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell

Roosters vs Storm. The grand final rematch in the grand final qualifier. Minor premiers vs defending premiers.

One team will go on to the big dance and one will go home. The Storm got the better of the Roosters in their most recent meeting but this time, it’s at the SCG, the Roosters stomping ground.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves suspended and Suliasi Vunivalu injured. Kenny Bromwich plays his 150th NRL game and Cooper Cronk playing for his career.

KICKOFF

The game started in unique fashion as Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Sio Siua Taukeiaho were both sin binned for slapping each other after the first tackle!

From this, Latrell Mitchell would open the scoring with a penalty goal for a 2-0 lead after 1 minute.

Both teams would have attacking opportunities but the Roosters would get the first try after 15 minutes.

Daniel Tupou caught a high bomb above his head in the in-goal area.

Three Storm players almost held him up for the handover but Tupou got the offload out the back for Cordner to score.

Sydney Roosters winger Daniel Tupou

Latrell Mitchell sliced the kick so the score remained 6-0 after 15 minutes.

Both teams would keep having attacking opportunities but no one would crack.

With 5 minutes left in the half, Jahrome Hughes would be caught offside so Mitchell would kick the penalty goal.

The Roosters lead 8-0 with 5 minutes left until half time. The Roosters would hold on to this lead until the half.

Sydney Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner

HALF TIME

ROOSTERS 8 – 0 STORM

Early in the second half, Zane Tetevano was put on report for a dangerous tackle on Ryan Papenhuyzen.

10 minutes later, Storm would finally crack the defence.

After a lot of great field position, an under ball to Nelson Asofa-Solomona would see the mammoth of a man reach out to give Melbourne their first points.

Cameron Smith converted for the 8-6 scoreline.

Melbourne Storm back-rower Kenny Bromwich

With 25 minutes left, Mitch Aubusson would go down with a nasty head clash with Kenny Bromwich’s hip. He failed the HIA.

15 minutes later, James Tedesco would go over on the right side to get the Roosters a 6 point lead.

Mitchell converted for the 14-6 score but in the try, Bromwich accidentally headbutted Ryan Papenhuyzen in the chin.

He would go off with his jaw bleeding. Roosters held on to win it.

Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen

FULL TIME

ROOSTERS 14 – 6 Storm

The Melbourne Storm’s 2019 season is over with that win and for the first time in 4 years, the minor premiers are not in the grand final.

The Sydney Roosters will head to ANZ stadium next week to play against the Canberra Raiders.

Will the Green Machine break their 25-year drought or will the Chooks be the first team to go back-to-back since the 1992 and 1993 Broncos?

We will find out in 8 days.

Eels stalwart Mannah confirms retirement from NRL

Retiring Parramatta Eels prop Tim Mannah

A long, storied career, saw Tim Mannah play out his entire first-grade life-time with one team, the Parramatta Eels. 

With an off-field role set for 2020, the veteran prop has decided to retire from rugby league at the end of the season.

With a grand final in the Intrust Super Cup coming up and a chance to go out a winner, Mannah knew it was the right time.

“I’ve had a great time in the game and it’s given me and my family so much,” Mannah said.

“I’m extremely grateful for the support I’ve received from the Eels and our passionate Blue and Gold Army, I truly believe we have the best fans in the world.

“I’ll always have amazing memories of the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met along the way, but now I’m excited to open a new chapter in my career.”

Despite talk that things may have ended sourly at the club, there was nothing but praise for what he has achieved in the blue and gold.

“On behalf of everyone at Parramatta Eels, we’d like to congratulate Tim on an incredible rugby league career,” said Eels CEO, Bernie Gurr.

“We are very pleased he will remain an Eel, as he makes his transition into life after football and forges an equally successful career off the field.

“I know everyone in Rugby League will join with me in wishing Tim and his young family nothing but the best for the future.”

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