Linnett’s English adventure begins after signing with Hull KR

North Queensland Cowboys centre Kane Linnett

As the North Queensland Cowboys go through a rebuild of sorts, Kane Linnett was one player allowed to leave and he has signed with Hull KR. 

His new deal with the Super League side is for three seasons.

Linnett, an NRL premiership winner in 2015 with the Cowboys, began his NRL career as a Sydney Roosters player in 2010.

A Scottish international, Linnett is a player that brings experience to the Rovers side and a signing coach Tim Sheens has praised.

“Kane is obviously a very experienced NRL player with over 180 first-grade games, he’s 29 years old and plays both centre and second row which will give us a lot of depth in that area,” Sheens said.

“Kane is a very professional player, a very good player but also a very good person so I think he will add to the culture of the club.”

For Linnett, playing in the Super League has always been an ambition of his.

“I always wanted to finish my career in the Super League,” the veteran centre said.

“I’m really excited to get over there and meet a new bunch of boys, get settled in, work hard and hopefully have a good year.”

With experience under his belt, Linnett is keen to help the younger players develop in any way he can.

Having a senior role, I’ve got a lot of experience in the NRL so I’d like to help some of the younger boys through and it would be great to win a Super League title,” he continued.

“I’ve played a couple of finals here in the NRL, so that would be the ultimate achievement.”

Merrin becomes Rhinos latest signing

Penrith Panthers prop Trent Merrin

Just a week ago, he was staying at the Penrith Panthers. Today, Trent Merrin will join the Leeds Rhinos. 

The representative prop will join the Super League club on a four-year deal.

A premiership winner with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2010, Merrin is a player Leeds are excited to sign.

“We are delighted to have signed Trent and look forward to welcoming him to the Rhinos club,” said Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield.

“He is an international class forward who was a regular last season for Penrith Panthers in the NRL. ”

Sinfield went on to praise Merrin’s leadership, experience and knows he will become a valuable piece to the side.

“He has an outstanding reputation in Australia for his leadership within a group and is someone who has played for a decade at the highest level of the game,” the former Leeds player continued.

“He will complement our current group of forwards and is another indication of the ambition of the club to move forward into a new exciting era.”

Merrin also drew praise from Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould, who gave him a glowing endorsement.

“Trent Merrin has given our club three years of outstanding service, both on and off the field,” said Gould.

“Panthers played finals football in each of the three seasons he spent at the club.”

Gould wished Merrin all the best with his new side.

“Apart from the tremendous football he has played, Trent has been instrumental in mentoring the careers of a number of our young players,” continued Gould.

We wish Trent well with his new challenge in the English Super League. Leeds has secured itself a very good man.”

As for the man himself, his goals in the NRL are complete and he felt ready to take on a new challenge.

“I have done everything I possibly could in the NRL and this is a great opportunity for me to come to a great club with a fantastic culture and hopefully achieve some goals together,” said Merrin.

“It is good to have clarity about my future, I am looking forward to coming to a new country, stepping outside of my comfort zone and being part of something special with Leeds.”

Although his NRL journey is over, there is plenty he has his sights set on and he wants to start on the right foot.

“There is a lot I still want to achieve. I want to put my best foot forward and, when I eventually come back home, I want to be able to look back on a special period in my life,” continued the prop.

“I have spent time with Dave Furner in camp before and enjoyed the experience.

“He is obviously well respected at Leeds from his time there as a player and has built an impressive coaching career in the NRL since then.”

Sio to return to England after signing with Salford

Newcastle Knights winger Ken Sio

After a previous stint in the Super League with Hull KR, Ken Sio will depart the Newcastle Knights and head back to England, signing with the Salford Red Devils.

Sio’s ability to find the line has been on show over the years at the Parramatta Eels, Hull KR and the Knights.

With that knack for scoring also comes back-line versatility, with Sio able to cover fullback, wing and centre, a trait that pleases the club.

“We are delighted to add Ken to our team and would like to welcome his wife and children to Salford,” said Salford head coach Ian Watson.

“This signing is an outstanding capture for the Club as Ken is a player who can play full-back, winger and centre and comes with great experience.”

With his future sorted, Salford look forward to having the calibre of Sio on board.

“Ken is a fantastic person with an excellent work ethic which is essential in our environment here at Salford Red Devils,” continued Watson.

“His all-round ability and track record as a proven finisher in both the Super League and NRL will only add to our back line and help us build momentum as we head into the 2019 season.”

Kelly returns home after Manly grants him an early release

Manly Sea Eagles centre Brian Kelly

Home is where the heart is for Brian Kelly who will make a return to the Gold Coast Titans after the Manly Sea Eagles granted him a release. 

Released from the final year of his Manly contract, Kelly has taken up a three year offer from the Titans.

Playing 47 games for the Silvertails, the club thanked the centre for his service to the club.

“We thank Brian for his tremendous service to our Club both on and off the field over the past two years and we wish him all the very best in his future endeavours,” said Sea Eagles CEO Lyall Gorman.

Born in Lismore and playing his footy in Ballina, Kelly returns to an area that he knows well and the Titans are pleased.

“Brian is another local coming home and it is great to see a player of his calibre return to the club where he made a name for himself,” Titans coach Garth Brennan said.

“He showed plenty of promise coming through the ranks here at the Titans and continued his rise down in Sydney, becoming an NRL regular.

“I’ve spoken about the desire of bringing in an outside back and Brian definitely fits the criteria of what this club was looking for.”

 

Murray and Graham extend their stay in the cardinal and myrtle

South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Cameron Murray

Two of the most talented prospects at the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Campbell Graham and Cameron Murray have both re-signed with the club.

The duo are a product of the club’s junior system and have new deals until the end of the 2021 season.

Establishing himself as a mainstay of the Souths pack, Murray has impressed many with his tenacity and work ethic.

“Both Cameron and Campbell have shown they have what it takes to become regular NRL players and also to perform at the highest representative levels of the game in time,” Rabbitohs General Manager of Football Shane Richardson said.

“Cameron is a workhorse and has made an impact on our team from the moment he was selected in first grade.

“His work ethic is second-to-none; he has the respect of his team mates, coaches and staff; and is a young leader among our squad.”

As for Graham, who is still eligible for U20’s, it his versatility and smooth transition to first-grade that pleases the club most.

“Campbell is still eligible for the under 20s but his efforts in the NRL have seen him earn a spot in our back line over the past 18 months,” Richardson continued.

“He can play centre and has played wing already at NRL level and we’re all excited to see what he can achieve with more full time training and more NRL experience under his belt.

The cardinal and myrtle colours run deep for Murray – his father also donned the Souths jersey – and he could not be prouder to sign a new deal.

“I’m really happy to know I’ll be here for at least the next three years, playing for the club I grew up supporting, the club my father played for and the club I was born into,” Murray said.

“This club has a very bright future and I’m really excited to be playing under the administration we have here at Souths.”

Murray is also pleased to play in front of such a vocal set of fans and is just honoured to don the Souths jersey.

“I love playing for such a large fan base and it’s great to be part of a club where our Members play such a big part in driving our success,” the young forward continued.

“It’s a special place and I fell privileged to be part of it.”

All those sentiments and more were echoed by Graham.

“I definitely see my future here at this club,” Graham said.

“I’m really happy with my progression over the past few seasons and I’m really grateful for the opportunities the Club has provided for me to start my career.

“There are definitely exciting times ahead and I can’t wait to play my part in that for my team and the Members.”

South Sydney Rabbitohs winger Campbell Graham

Gavet granted early release to take up deal with Newcastle

New Zealand Warriors prop James Gavet

Not standing in the way of a more suitable offer, the New Zealand Warriors have released James Gavet who will join the Newcastle Knights. 

With 1-year remaining left at the Warriors, the Kiwi club made a decision to allow Gavet to sign with the Knights on two-year deal.

The Warriors were quick to praise Gavet with club CEO Cameron George praising the hulking prop for his service to the club.

“James has been a good servant of this club and always gave it his all on the footy field,” George said.

“But he’s been given a great opportunity and we wish him all the best for the future.”

With the Knights eager to sign more big bodies, the addition of James Gavet comes at an important time for a club on the rise.

“James adds a lot to our squad,” Newcastle Knights Player List Manager Troy Pezet said.

“He’s a big body who plays with a lot of aggression and energy.

“Last season was a breakout year for James. We feel we’re getting him at the right time.

“He’s starting to play some his best football and still has room for growth.”

Eager to get started, Gavet is looking forward to being part of a fresh, revamped Knights side on the rise.

“This is a Club going places,” Gavet said.

“It’s a fresh start for me and I’m really excited about what the future holds.”

New Panthers deal for Blake

Penrith Panthers centre Waqa Blake

Often a much maligned player by Penrith Panthers fans, Waqa Blake is slowly impressing many and has been rewarded with a new deal. 

For Blake himself, he just could not see himself playing anywhere else.

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to commit my future to the club,” Blake said.

“Panthers is home for me now and I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”

Fijian born, Blake had to work his way into the Penrith side and overcome the doubts of fans.

That work saw him draw praise from the club for his perseverance and tenacity.

“Waqa Blake is an outstanding young man and a tremendous success story for our club,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“He graduated from the Panthers development system to establish himself as an important member of our NRL team.”

Gould continued to praise Blake, going on to state him as a future representative player.

“Waqa is fast developing into one of the most dangerous attacking players in the NRL,” continued Gould.

“We firmly believe he is a representative player of the future and we are excited to know he will be with us for at least the next five seasons.”

In-form Raiders back-rower Tapine signs new long-term deal

Canberra Raiders forward Joseph Tapine

In what was arguably a career best year for Joseph Tapine, his form has been rewarded by the Canberra Raiders in a new long-term deal.

Already contracted to the Raiders for 2019, Tapine’s new deal is one that cements yet another key player to their long-term roster.

Canberra has quickly become a home away from home for Tapine who has settled in well.

“Moving to the Raiders has been the best decision for my footy and I know by extending my time here in Canberra I can continue to become a better player,” Tapine said.

“I’m confident in the group of players and coaches we have that we can keep improving and be a better and more consistent team.”

“My partner and I have also made a home in Canberra and we love living here.”

For the Raiders, it was an easy decision to retain Tapine.

Although Joe was already on contract until the end of the 2019 season, we identified him as a priority re-signing and we’re delighted to be able to extend his contract with the club,” Raiders Recruitment and High-Performance Director Peter Mulholland said.

“Joe has the ability and skill set to be one of the games best young forwards and we see him as a huge part of our future.”

“We’re excited to watch him progress as a player and leader within our side over the next few seasons.”

Bennett to take the Rabbitohs mantle from 2020

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett

Regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all-time, Wayne Bennett will make the jump to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The deal, which may surprise many, will start in the 2020 season as well as the 2021 season.

With seven premiership wins at two different clubs, Bennett’s record speaks for itself.

His signing as coach is one that the club’s General Manager of Football, Shane Richardson, has applauded.

“Wayne is one of the best, if the not the best, Rugby League coaches of all time and we are excited to see what he can bring to our Club,” Mr Richardson said.

“His football record is second-to-none and his reputation as a leader is also of the highest order.”

Richardson is excited to see Bennett work alongside the talent available at the club.

“Here, he will have the opportunity to work with some of the best senior and up-and-coming talent in the game, which from our discussions over the past few weeks I know he is excited about,” continued Richardson.

“He will also have the opportunity to work as a Head Coach with a strong coaching, football and administration staff around him that are all pushing in the one direction, The Rabbitoh Way.”

In the end, Richardson did not hold back when it came to why Souths opted to not renew the contract of current coach Anthony Seibold.

“Anthony (Seibold) has done a great job at our Club over the past two years however his hesitance to extend his contract with us,” he continued.

“An offer which has been on the table since June, led the Club to explore other options.”

Gold Coast – The Enigma of Rugby League

Since 1988 the Gold Coast has been perennial underachievers of Rugby League. The Seagulls, the Chargers, the Crushers, the Gladiators the Giants and now, the Titans.

For every attempt no matter what the constant name iterations just haven’t worked.

The Gold Coast is the sporting enigma of Australian sports. NRL, AFL, A League, NBL have all tried and failed over the years.

What is the reason? Why has no Gold Coast team in any sport been successful? Is it because it’s a transient city with locals coming and going not really supporting the team?

Or are all the attractions and activities more appealing to locals . The sun, surf and sex it is renowned for.

For well paid young fit men, it is a paradise with many attractions, temptations and vices. Particularly in the 80’s and 90’s.

An era where mobile phones and social media didn’t exist. Were those temptations became too much for some?

What started with excitement and hope in 1988 has turned to frustration and disappointment over the years. To understand the story of the Gold Coast, let’s go back to 1988.

The original Gold Coast team, the Giants, played out of Tweed Heads.

For such a colourful location, the jersey chosen was charcoal black, grey and white. So from the start, it didn’t exactly win the Gold Coast locals over.

At the same time, the Broncos also entered the NSWRL Winfield Cup for the first time loaded their team with Origin and Test players.

The biggest signing for the Giants was Ronnie ‘Rambo’ Gibbs, Manly’s second rower from the 1987 Premiership team.

From that first season, the team went through many changes. The Giants gave way to be the Seagulls owned and run by the large Seagulls Leagues Club. A one time mega club.

This was a time when poker machines were banned in clubs and pubs in Queensland. Bus loads would cross the border South to the Tweed and play the pokies at the Seagulls club.

Still located at Tweed Heads and now cashed up, the club was able to bulk up their playing roster. Enter the King Wally Lewis.

By then, his best playing days were over and he had just been dismissed by Wayne Bennett at the Broncos. However, he gave the struggling team credibility.

The club recruited well obtaining Canberra premiership-winning players including Brent Todd and Paul Martin.

They were starting to produce their own players like Wayne Bartrim who would later go on to have a great career with St George.

Why these teams failed is unclear. Their roster at times looked very promising and able to compete with most teams.

Yet they usually ended at the bottom of the ladder. As said, a different time without social media. Yet to become a fully professional game.

Eventually, with Pokies being legalised in Queensland and with declining crowd support, the Seagullls club could no longer financially support the club.

The licence was then bought by local entrepreneurs Jeff Muller in 1996.

Muller moved the club to Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast and renamed the team the Gladiators.

Despite off field issues including the hiring and firing of 5 coaches in the pre season alone, the Gladiators won the pre season 7’s tournament.

Prior to the 1996 season, the licence was revoked and placed into administration.

With the Super League War at its height, the ARL needed a team on the Gold Coast and quickly assembled the Gold Coast Chargers.

A time when players were being paid well above market value. Still before social media.

Now playing out of Carrara Stadium, the team over achieved in the split competition making the semi finals for the first time in 1997.

When the Super League war was over, the Super League aligned Hunter Mariners put an offer to merge with the Gold Coast Chargers. This offer was declined.

The nucleus of the players on offer in the merger went on to form the Melbourne Storm which won the Premiership in 1999.

The Gold Coast was one of the first teams sacrificed when the competing ARL and Super League combined to form the NRL.

What could had been with that merger. The NRL would be a very different game today had that merger happened.

Melbourne went on to unparalleled success while the Gold Coast has to wait until 2007 to redeem themselves.

Years went by with hope a team might relocate or the NRL might expand.

Thanks to South Sydney winning their way back into the NRL, it meant that NRL needed to even the number of teams competing to 16.

In 2007, the Gold Coast Titans were introduced into the NRL.

Could this iteration break the curse of the previous versions of the Gold Coast?

The buzz surrounding the new team was nothing like any of the other teams experienced.

The team was very competitive from the start and importantly, it was located on the Gold Coast at the brand new purpose built stadium in Robina.

However, for all of the good signings and home grown talent, great administration and coaches, success has still eluded the Gold Coast since 2007.

Over 30 years has passed since the Giants entered the NSWRL in 1988.

In that time, the Gold Coast has seen NBL and A League teams come and go. The AFL struggle on and off the field.

As a city, the Gold Coast itself has changed and matured. Yet sporting teams, no matter the code, struggle to be successful.

The same temptations are available to the young men that play but with the advent of mobile phones and social media it prevents most temptations being acted upon.

The Titans have recently been bought by a local consortium giving the team stability off the field, for now. Let us hope it continues.

With some astute signings and the development of some very exciting youngsters, perhaps the Gold Coast enigma will be cracked and the curse lifted in 2019.

Why has the Gold Coast failed to succeed? Let me know your thoughts. Please be respectful to all.

Pete Williams

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